Police, School Districts Address School Bus Safety Laws

LACKAWANNA COUNTY -- In light of a string of school bus stop crashes across the country, school districts and police departments in our area are making changes.

They're making sure drivers who break the law face consequences, and that students know how to protect themselves.

Mrs. Jones' kindergarten class at Riverside Elementary West in Taylor had a guest teacher Thursday, Taylor Police Officer Mike Zuby. The lesson is school bus safety.

The lesson is a follow-up to a study done on the school buses earlier in the school year.

"It was about a month and a half ago, we had a plan where one police officer would be on the school bus and a marked car would be following, just to look for violators of trafficking laws with school bus safety and at bus stops," said Principal Scott Pentasuglio.

Riverside planned to do the program, called Operation Safe Stop, weeks before a string of deadly bus stop crashes across the country.

Riverside students are learning ways to protect themselves on their way to school.

"We don't want to see a tragic accident happen here in the borough, so we're trying to curb it, and keep the students at the straight and arrow when they're at the bus stop and I think this is a very good idea," added Taylor Police Chief Steve Derenick.

Police officers told Newswatch 16 it's often the adults behind the wheel who pose the greatest risk to students getting on and off the school bus.

"There's been several tragedies around the country, this is something that's not new, it's an ongoing situation for us and for many police departments. I just wish there was some way that people would be more wary and realize what their obligations are when they approach a school bus that's picking up or discharging children," said South Abington Township Police Chief Robert Gerrity.

After the recent deadly bus stop crashes, Chief Robert Gerrity gave his officers an assignment. They patrolled Routes 6 & 11 in the township, pulling over drivers who didn't stop when a school bus was picking up kids.

The chief told Newswatch 16 most drivers don't know that you must stop in both directions, even on a highway with more than two lanes.

"By not obeying that law you're subjecting yourself to a severe penalty, you`re looking at a $250 fine, six month suspension of your driver`s license, plus now you're a high risk for your insurance," Gerrity added.

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