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Cops cracking down around school buses

POSTED: August 21, 2013 11:50 a.m.

Starting this week, law enforcement personnel will be riding school buses at various times to help nab motorists who don’t obey bus stop signs.
“We want them to know we are very serious about the safety of our children,” said Dr. Trey Robertson, assistant superintendent for Bryan County Schools.
With good reason. During the school year in Bryan County, 64 buses transport about 4,200 children to and from school each school day — all at times that tend to coincide with peak traffic hours.
And as the community found out earlier this year, the result of passing a school bus stopped to load or unload children can be devastating.
In February, 5-year-old Lanier Primary student Keshawn Odom was hit by a passing pickup while getting off a bus at a stop on Highway 119 near Pembroke. The child died the next morning.
The 16-year-old driver of the pickup that struck the boy was not harmed. The buses’ safety equipment was working properly, school officials said at the time.
There were also times last school year when the potential for tragedy arose, BoE chairman Eddie Warren said.
“There were a couple of times last (school year) where school board members and the superintendent witnessed cars going around buses that were stopped,” Warren said. “The cars were coming from both ways, behind the buses and the front. Some of them were on main thoroughfares and the cars were going fast. So not only were they going around, but they were speeding.”
School officials have talked about ways to keep motorists from passing the buses at recent workshops and decided to enlist the help of police.
“It’s just a way to get a step ahead,” Warren said. “Hopefully it will deter anything from happening.”
Authorities will work both ends of Bryan County, with police from Pembroke, Richmond Hill and Bryan County Sheriff’s Department deputies on board buses watching for drivers who pass school buses stopped to load or unload children.
At the same time, police and deputies in cars will be working in tandem with the officers on board the buses to catch drivers who go around stopped buses.
“It’s important we pay attention to the bus stop sign,” said Robertson, who is assistant superintendent for operations and student services.
He noted this year’s slogan for the annual school bus safety poster contest carries a similar message the BoE is trying to get out to motorists. The slogan is “At My Stop – You Stop!”
And if posters aren’t enough to get the message across, there’s also what happens to motorists who get caught — a mandatory court appearance, up to $1,000 in fines, six points on a driver’s license and a license suspension for anyone under 21 who is convicted of passing a stopped school bus.

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