The German Twp. Police Department is cracking down on drivers who don’t follow the rules when it comes to school buses.
Recently officers boarded Northwestern Local school buses — along with the district’s school resource officer Deputy Darlene Grogg — to ride along and catch drivers in the act.
Grogg said she’s received several complaints from the district’s bus drivers just this year.
“It is such a huge problem,” she said. “The kids even know it’s a problem. I have kids in the elementary tell me when I go over there during lunch. They’ll be like, ‘another car passed our school bus again.’”
Instead of simply patrolling the area — Grogg and officers with German Twp. boarded Northwestern buses on both the elementary and high school morning and afternoon routes and positioned ‘follow cruisers’ behind the buses.
If a driver illegally passed a school bus, the cruiser would immediately pull the driver over.
“Within a few minutes of pulling out of the bus garage we had a violator,” said German Twp. Police Chief Michael Stitzel.
A total of six drivers were pulled over — four for going around a bus’ flashing red lights and two for speeding by a bus.
Body camera video provided by German Twp. shows that drivers provided officers with a variety of excuses.
One woman said she recently started driving more often and didn’t know she had to stop for the bus.
She was pulled over near Lawrenceville at a stop that Grogg says is a big problem area, along with Troy Road.
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Grogg said normally if a driver illegally passes a school bus, the bus drivers must fill out an extremely detailed report and submit it to her — a process that can yield poor results because of the amount of information bus drivers are asked to remember, such as how long the red signal lights had been flashing or the number of kids on the bus at the time of the violation.
According to information from the sheriff’s office, school resource officers at Clark County Local schools have already submitted 24 ‘Improper Passing of School Bus Violation Reports’ — just this school year.
That number is not all inclusive, as some officers submit their reports directly to the state level.
Of those 24 reports, seven have resulted in citations against drivers and 17 were labeled ‘unfounded’ and nothing came from them.
“We’re lucky if they get a plate description,” she said. “The bus driver has way too much to do than get these sheets filled out.”
In the absence of exterior bus cameras, Grogg is hopeful that more of these ride-alongs with German Twp. will help to curb the problem and keep drivers more aware.
Chief Stitzel is already looking forward to another one in the very near future.
“We wanna get the word out. Stop passing these school buses. Pay attention. Don’t get in a hurry,” he said.
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