Heads up, drivers: Stop for school buses

Photo by Garrett Brown
Orson and Parker Brown catch P.J.’s Shelburne bus S-8 on Juniper Ridge Tuesday.

Any teenager taking their first driving exam to earn a learner’s permit needs to know it’s illegal to pass a school bus with its lights flashing as it stops to pick up and drop off its young passengers.

Some Shelburne drivers apparently need a refresher course and the Shelburne Police Department is planning to give one.

Since the start of this school year, Shelburne Police Officer Mike Thomas said an increase in parent and bus driver complaints prompted the idea to put police officers on buses and having patrol vehicles follow behind. Thomas said before he went on medical leave a few years ago, police consistently followed this practice and decided now was the time to resume it.

Starting after February vacation, police say they will make a targeted effort to catch drivers in the act of illegally passing school buses. Thomas said he hopes to continue this initiative on a weekly basis for the rest of the school year.

The goal is to lower the risk to school children and enforce violations with greater accuracy, Thomas explained.

Police will start riding on one of the eight Shelburne Community School buses and rotate marked and unmarked police cars following buses to enforce any violations.

While bus drivers can take down the information of passing cars, there can be inaccurate reports and an unwillingness by bus drivers to testify in court against violators, Thomas said. He also acknowledged the priority for bus drivers to focus on student safety and not catching passing vehicles.

Thomas said Shelburne Community School principals, Alison Bancroft and Scott Sivo have been very cooperative with the police to address bus safety. Sivo said the new initiative is a logical way to address concerns raised by parents as bus drivers can’t always be accountable for the behavior of other motorists.

Thomas said police will ride along on bus routes where bus drivers have experienced the greatest number of violations; Spear and Dorset streets are two examples.

Sivo said these efforts and others come from a good working relationship between the school and the police department. “They have been supportive of our new traffic pattern at the school, our efforts to strengthen our approach to planning and practicing school emergency procedures, and addressing this issue of bus safety,” Sivo said. “We hold a monthly safety meeting at the school where we discuss issues of emergency preparedness and they have been active and willing participants.”

Enforcing the school bus laws is just one traffic issue Shelburne police plan to address this year. Thomas and Officer Rob Lake also plan additional enforcement regarding drivers using cell phones at the wheel.

Combining educational outreach, such as sending out a message via the Shelburne Community School newsletter and speaking directly with parents and bus drivers, and riding along on buses,

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