MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department will crack down on motorists who don’t drive safely around school buses.
“No tolerance,” Sheriff Perry Palmer said. “We will write tickets.”
Public school resumes in Monongalia County on Tuesday and more than 100 buses will transport more than 9,000 children to and from their first day of classes, Jeff Meadows, administrative assistant to the superintendent in charge of transportation, said.
Palmer said every year the department receives complaints about motorists who pass school buses while unloading or loading children. He said this year, the department will get out ahead of the problem with extra officers in targeted areas.
“We’d hate for a tragedy to happen,” Palmer said.
He said drivers need to be aware of their surroundings — children will be crossing roads and waiting by the side of roads for buses.
Drivers should plan to leave 10-15 minutes early once school starts — something Plamer said he has to do himself.
Palmer and Meadows worked together to identify problem areas where the extra enforcement will happen.
Meadows said drivers passing stopped buses put students at risk of getting hit by a car and that his bus drivers try to catch all the offenders they can by taking pictures with the buses’ outside cameras.
He said he’s pleased the sheriff is taking on this cause.
Palmer said taking a strong stance on enforcement will help get the message out that the behavior is not tolerated.
In addition to those who pass a stopped bus, deputies will target distracted drivers and speeders, he said. The sheriff has authorized overtime for the campaign and said shift officers who aren’t on a call will make this their focus.
Passing a bus while it’s unloading or loading students or when the bus is flashing its warning signal lights is punishable by a fine of $250-$500 and/or up to six months in jail for a first offense. A second conviction will cost $500-$1,000 and/or up to six months in jail. Third and subsequent convictions carry a fine of $1,000 and 48 hours to six months in jail.
Drivers will also lose their driver’s licenses for 30 days for a first conviction, 90 days for a second conviction and six months for third and subsequent convictions.