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Grants fund bus safety efforts

August 21, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

At least three area law-enforcement agencies have received grant money they will use in an attempt to curb unsafe driving around school buses.

When school starts Wednesday, officers will begin following school buses in marked cars, watching for drivers who pass school buses that are stopped with flashing lights. They also will be looking for other violations.

Maryland State Police 1st Sgt. David Kloos said troopers will patrol with the buses before and after school. The Hagerstown barracks received $13,500 from the Department of Maryland State Police, which distributed $522,000 statewide from the School Bus Enforcement Fund.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department received $15,000 from the fund and the Smithsburg Police Department received $1,000, according to a prepared release.

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Kloos said law-enforcement officials were working with Washington County Public Schools to make the patrols a success.

Transportation Supervisor Barb Scotto did not return a call for comment.

Kloos said bus drivers were being trained to identify those who illegally pass school buses. He said if the bus drivers provide descriptions and license plate numbers, troopers can follow up on the information.

Troopers also are asking for information about "hot spots" where violations regularly occur.

By riding in marked police cruisers, Kloos said, troopers not only will enforce laws, but will deter drivers from violating laws.

Smithsburg Police Chief Michael Potter said his department has applied for and received the grant money for several years.

"Officers usually use it in two-hour blocks to follow school buses throughout the town, monitoring stops and taking adequate enforcement for passing school buses," he said.

Potter said he's seen the number of violations go down, but added that some still occur in the town.

"We have seen drivers become more aware of buses," he said.

Kloos said state police were considering having troopers in civilian clothes ride on school buses to identify drivers who pass stopped buses.

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