WEST CHESTER—As part of National School Bus Safety Week, the West Chester Area School District teamed up with local police departments for the 23rd annual Operation Safe Stop.
Communities across the state participated in Operation Safe Stop on Wednesday, Oct. 23. The school bus safety initiative, organized by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, is a proactive approach to educate and remind motorists that passing a stopped school bus, when children are loading or unloading, is both dangerous and illegal.
"While October 23rd was designated as 'Operation Safe Stop,' every day is considered 'Operation Safe Stop' for our district, and our drivers from Krapf and On the Go Kids," said Joanne Yarnall, WCASD transportation manager.
"The scary part is every day someone runs through school bus lights in every school district around the country, putting the safety of students at risk. Drivers need to understand the laws and know when to stop for a school bus with flashing lights. Anyone that witnesses a violation of the school bus law can get the license number and report the incident to the local police. Student safety is a collaborative effort."
If convicted of breaking Pennsylvania's Bus Stopping law, a motorist faces a $250 fine, five points on their driving record, and a 60-day license suspension.
Police officers from West Goshen Township, West Whiteland Township, and Westtown-East Goshen Township rode busses along some of the routes that the district's transportation office has received concerns about from parents and bus drivers.
Kennith Frascella, a patrol officer with the Westtown-East Goshen Police Department, rode with students en route to East Goshen Elementary School.
"People are often in such a hurry, or they are distracted while driving. The safety of children is the most important thing to remember. School should be a safe learning environment, and part of that is the process of getting students to and from school safely. It needs to be a top priority."
Officer Ted Cam, with the Westtown-East Goshen Traffic Safety Unit, followed behind the bus bound for East Goshen Elementary School, keeping an eye out for violators. No violations were reported on any of the bus routes that police monitored on Wednesday. Officers also addressed bus stop safety and bus behavior with students as part of the initiative.
"The kids were great. They were very well-behaved and courteous," said Officer Frascella. "And their bus driver, Ashley Murphy, was extremely professional and caring. She took the time to welcome each of the students as they got on the bus. She is an excellent driver."
The West Chester Area School District provides transportation to over 15,000 school students per year, including private schools and special education services.