Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A few school buses may have had some special followers on Thursday.
Law enforcement officers across New York state were participating in Operation Safe Stop, a crackdown on motorists who illegally pass school buses when they’re picking up or dropping off students.
State troopers, sheriff’s deputies and local police officers spent time in the morning and afternoon following behind school buses in marked and unmarked patrol vehicles on selected bus routes that have a history of illegal passing complaints.
Lockport Police were out in full force Thursday, following behind selected buses.
Lt. Rodney Peters, one of the officers out on patrol Thursday morning, followed an elementary school bus south on South Transit Road. There was a close call at a bus stop as a minivan heading north stopped late as the bus picked up a few kids.
Peters thought maybe the minivan driver saw his marked vehicle. But if people aren’t passing stopped school buses, then that’s a good thing.
“That’s the goal,” Peters said.
Once buses had completed their morning routes, officers spread out to watch stop signs, traffic lights and speed limits.
School bus drivers typically activate the yellow lights roughly 300 feet before the bus will stop. It’s against the law to pass a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing.
And that means in any direction, regardless of how many lanes are between the driver and the bus.
Failure to do so carries some stiff penalties. A first conviction of passing stopped school buses can come with a fine ranging from $250 to $400, up to five points on a driver’s license and up to 30 days of possible imprisonment.
A second conviction within three years of the first can lead to a fine ranging from $600 to $750, five points and up to 180 days behind bars. A third conviction within three years of the first could carry the same punishment, but the fine ranges from $750 to $1,000.
According to the National Association for Pupil Transportation, New York transports 2.3 million kids in over 50,000 school buses each year.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.