(The Center Square) – Convictions for driving past school bus stop arms in Pennsylvania increased 47% in 2022, according to state data.
Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary for Driver and Vehicle Services Kara Templeton said that 511 residents faced penalties for violating the law, up from 348 in 2021. During the agency’s Oct. 18 event to raise awareness for school transportation safety, she said law enforcement and bus drivers witnessed 164 incidents in just one day.
“Now just imagine how many incidents go unreported and that should give you an idea of why we are here today,” she said during a Monday news conference discussing the results of Operation Safe Stop.
The comments come after Erie News Now reported a 7-year-old girl was hit while boarding a school bus in Crawford County on Wednesday morning. She was transported to Meadville Medical Center and treated for injuries to her face and legs, state troopers said.
“The tragic fact is that too often drivers ignore the warning lights on school buses and try to pass them, which puts our children in jeopardy,” Templeton said. “This is simply not acceptable.”
On the same day as the Operation Safe Stop, the state Legislature reauthorized support for cameras used on school bus stop arms to fine motorists who ignore the signs. The governor enacted the legislation a day before the program was set to expire on Oct. 24.
The cameras are used to fine violators $300, with $250 going to the school to maintain the cameras, $25 to the local police department, and $25 for a school bus safety grant program.
The bill also specifies that motorists can appeal the fine, stating that vehicle owners are not liable if they were not the driver or if the camera was out of compliance for accuracy, certification, or calibration issues. Police must verify that a violation occurred.
What happened in Crawford County is far from the only instance of children being injured or killed while waiting at their bus stops.
In February, a 6-year-old girl in Westmoreland County was killed while waiting for the bus. In December, a student in Cambria County was also injured waiting for a bus after a car collided with a postal truck in heavy fog and careened into her. Two weeks after a York County student was killed, a driver struck another student as he biked to school. Students in Butler County, Berks County, and Westmoreland County have also been injured on their way to school.
Speed, poor road design, a dearth of crosswalks, and a lack of crossing guards have all been mentioned as problems associated with the crashes.