Stopped school bus overtaking remains a problem in Ohio County | News, Sports, Jobs


(File photo)

WHEELING — Two recent incidents involving school buses and passing motorists have Ohio County school officials worried as drivers continue to disregard bus warnings and safety laws.

A chilling event has taken place along a stretch of W.Va. 2/River Road between Wheeling and Warwood, explained Gabe Wells, communications coordinator for Ohio County Schools.

He said it’s unclear if the driver was just not paying attention, but the driver didn’t stop for a bus that was pulled over for dropping off students. The students were crossing the freeway at the time, and the last of them was forced to run to the other side to avoid being hit by the vehicle, Wells continued. The driver, noticing their mistake, then backed up to let the children pass.

The second account actually involved three separate vehicles and drivers, he said.

A school bus was stopped in Elm Grove along US 40 near Riesbecks with its arm containing a stop sign fully extended, Wells said. Each of the three vehicles drove around the stopped bus.

“We’re lucky to have cameras on our buses (which capture infractions),” Wells said. “It’s frustrating, and it’s also scary. We want to implore people to pay attention to buses, traffic lights and warning signs on buses. »

West Virginia law states that motorists — even if on a four-lane highway — must stop driving while a bus is loading and unloading students. During this time, the red bus stop sign is off and the red lights are flashing.

Wheeling police officers are investigating incidents where motorists allegedly overtook a stopped bus, according to Philip Shahl, public information officer for the Wheeling Police Department. And for those found guilty, there is a punishment, he added.

The first violation of passing a stopped school bus carries a minimum fine of $500 and possible driver’s license suspension for up to 60 days. Other offenses have even stiffer penalties, Stahl continued. Drivers who commit the offense multiple times can face a minimum fine of $1,000, as well as jail time.

Ohio County Schools and the Wheeling Police Department started the school year with pressure to remind drivers to pull over for stopped school buses.

“I don’t know if there’s been an increase or a decrease (in the number of incidents),” Stahl said. “I know we have investigated incidents and they have cameras on the buses. We investigate and try to track down the driver and issue a citation if they have violated traffic laws.

“We have a zero tolerance policy when passing the bus.”

Drivers also often forget that there is a 15-mile-per-hour speed limit when crossing school zones, and citations are issued for breaking that law, Stahl added.

“It happens at the beginning of the year. People forget,” he continued. “We have officers, especially PROs (Prevention Resource Officers) there.”

David Crumm, director of operations for Ohio County Schools, said the school district always shares information with law enforcement as needed.

“We still continue to run buses,” he admitted. “The buses have bright red lights and signs on them. If you’re out and there’s a question you need to stop, stop.

“Few places in Ohio County have a separate freeway (where a driver wouldn’t have to stop). If you’re out, you have to pull over,” Crumm said.

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