Jul. 29—PERU — The Peru Police Department is beefing up patrols along bus stops and routes to look for stop-arm violations and motorists driving dangerously.
Police said the increased bus patrols could start as early as next week as students head back to school. Officers on overtime patrols will be sent out to watch for stop-arm violations, speeders and other dangerous drivers at bus stops and school zones.
The increased patrols are part of the state's Stop Arm Violation Enforcement (SAVE) program, which is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
Peru Police Chief Dan Sofianos said that with students heading back to the classroom, drivers need to slow down, pay attention to the road and stop for buses — or face getting a ticket.
"We'll be on high-alert this back-to-school season and have zero tolerance for unsafe driving around buses and in school zones," he said in a release. "There's nothing more important to us than the safety of our children."
Peru police join more than 200 departments across the state that will be participating in this year's SAVE blitz, which is scheduled to last until mid-September. As part of the effort, officers will be working with bus drivers and school transportation officials to identify areas where the high-visibility patrols are needed the most.
In the spring, departments that participated in the last enforcement campaign issued more than 5,600 citations and 1,700 warnings. Of the citations, 251 were for stop-arm violations, 309 for texting while driving and nearly 1,900 for speeding, which Peru police called "alarming."
"Speeding around a bus or ignoring its stop-arm is not only illegal, it's reckless," Devon McDonald, ICJI executive director, stated in a release. "It puts everyone on the road at risk, including children, and has to stop — too much is at stake."
In Indiana, it's against the law for motorists to pass a bus that's stopped and has its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended. This applies to all roads, except on a highway that is divided by a barrier, where drivers are only required to stop if they are traveling in the same direction as the school bus.
"If you're driving and see those yellow flashing lights, slow down and be prepared to stop," Robert Duckworth, ICJI traffic safety director, said. "Don't try to beat the bus. Give yourself plenty of time or just arrive late. Rest assured, it's better than getting a ticket or possibly taking someone's life."
According to NHTSA, the greatest risk to a student isn't riding a bus but approaching or leaving one, so drivers are encouraged to slow down, put away the distractions and watch for buses at all times. It's also important for parents to talk to their child about school bus safety.
Children should always look both ways before crossing the street and arrive at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. At the bus stop, they should stay five steps away from the curb, and always wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and for the bus driver's signal to board.