GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central schools are back in session, which means dozens of big, yellow school buses are back out on the roads.
Officials warn that drivers who don’t stop when the buses’ stop-arms are extended will contend with the long arm of the law.
Seven of the corporation’s 52 buses are equipped with cameras that snap a picture of cars which fail to yield.
When a driver fails to yield, the school district sends a picture of the vehicle — and hopefully its license plate — to local law enforcement.
“A few got caught on camera last year. We probably caught eight to 10 people,” said Superintendent Harold Olin.
Josh Mullins, the onsite school resource officer at Greenfield-Central High School and a patrolman with the Greenfield Police Department, said the GPD takes all such driving infractions seriously.
“Now that we have the buses with really good cameras and video, it makes it a lot easier to find the drivers,” he said.
Tickets cost about $140, said Mullins, but you can’t put a price on the safety of children.
“Passing a bus could result in injury to a child or, in worst case, even death,” he said.
“We have seen the worst case scenario in Rochester, Indiana, where a woman killed three children by passing a school bus that was stopped,” Mullins said. “We want to prevent that from happening here, but we need drivers to be more cautious and never pass when a stop-arm is extended. Drivers need to be patient and maybe take alternate routes if they don’t want to get stuck behind a bus.”
Greenfield-Central’s transportation director, Todd Prazeau, said the corporation is pursuing a grant to equip more buses with stop-arm cameras.
“Most new buses already come equipped with them,” said Prazeau, and the district typically acquires three to four new buses each year.
Olin said bus safety is always at the top of mind for school officials, who frequently review and renew school bus safety rules with both students and bus drivers.
This month, the district’s junior high and high school students will review basic bus safety rules through an online question-and-answer game on Kahoot!, a popular teaching platform designed to teach students in fun and engaging ways.
“The game goes over things like how to safely enter and exit the bus, where you should stand when the school bus stops, things like that,” said Olin.
The school district now provides bus service for all students after eliminating “walk zone” areas which previously didn’t have bus service. Because of that, some students are still fairly new to riding the bus, said Olin.
“What we found when we did that is that some kids didn’t know how to ride the bus safely, which is what these training videos teach them,” he said.
Olin said one of the most important lessons is teacing students the importance of not distracting the driver with excessive noise and movement.
“Some of it is pretty simple stuff, like telling them to use headphones when watching videos or listening to music while on the bus, because when everybody is doing it, it really adds up,” he said.
School officials have also been tweaking bus routes and bus stops to create the safest experience for students.
“Whenever possible, we pick kids up on the side of the road so they’re not having to cross over in front of traffic very often,” said the superintendent, who reminds drivers to be aware of the number of students standing at bus stops along city and county roads.
“Driver awareness is the most important lesson,” he said.