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Troopers seek inattentive drivers Sgt. Brian Foltz, with the Ohio Highway Patrol, looks for drivers violating school bus traffic laws near the Sylvania Whiteford Elementary School on Tuesday.
Sgt. Brian Foltz, with the Ohio Highway Patrol, looks for drivers violating school bus traffic laws near the Sylvania Whiteford Elementary School on Tuesday.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Authorities on lookout for inattentive drivers

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Ohio Highway Patrol Sgt. Brian Foltz stopped his marked cruiser behind Sylvania school bus No. 9, which was coming to a stop in front of a home on Corey Road.

The bus driver, Don Haase, switched the yellow flashing lights to red, making it illegal for anyone to pass.

Just a moment later, as a young boy carrying his bookbag boarded the bus, a silver Honda blew by in the opposite direction, heading toward Central Avenue.

“Got one on the first stop,” the sergeant, a 13-year veteran of the patrol, said.

IT'S THE LAW

■ Do not pass a school bus when its red flashing lights are operating. Traffic should not move until the bus resumes motion or the driver signals for traffic to proceed.

■ Motorists should slow down when flashing yellow lights are displayed.

■ If a bus is stopped on a road with more than four lanes, only traffic traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop.

■ If a school bus is stopped on a road that has fewer than four lanes, all traffic in either direction must stop. Vehicles, in either direction, must stop at least 10 feet from the bus.


The Toledo post of the Ohio Highway Patrol is advocating driver awareness during National Bus Safety Week, which started Monday and continues through Friday.Failure to obey these traffic laws could result in fines of up to $500 and a maximum one-year driver's license suspension.

Troopers are following school buses to keep an eye out for anyone who fails to stop for a bus when the red lights are flashing.

The woman driving the Honda was cited for failure to yield for a school bus, the sergeant said.

He added that school bus violations are zero tolerance.

Such a citation in Ohio carries up to a $500 fine and possible suspension of the offender’s driver’s license.

Sergeant Foltz, who has worked the bus-safety detail nearly every year since joining the patrol, said Tuesday was the first time he’s caught someone during the project.

“The main thing is, driver inattention is way up,” the sergeant said. “There’s texting, putting on makeup, or thinking they can beat the lights before the kids come around.”

The woman behind the wheel in the Honda told the sergeant she was rushing to get her daughter to school.

Joe Kahl, transportation director for Sylvania schools, said bus drivers record someone passing a bus nearly every day, either by noting the license plate and jotting it down, or capturing it on a camera installed on the exterior of some school buses.

Sgt. Brian Foltz, with the Ohio Highway Patrol, returns to his vehicle after citing a driver for violating school bus traffic laws near the Sylvania Whiteford Elementary School on October 18. Sgt. Brian Foltz, with the Ohio Highway Patrol, returns to his vehicle after citing a driver for violating school bus traffic laws near the Sylvania Whiteford Elementary School on October 18.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Mr. Kahl declined to comment on how many of the district’s buses have such cameras.

The issue becomes the safety of the drivers and the school children getting on or off the bus, said Highway Patrol Lt. John Altman, who was riding on bus No. 9 as an extra set of eyes for Mr. Haase — when kindergarten students weren’t trying to win the lieutenant’s attention.

“It’s a matter of safety,” Lieutenant Altman said. “We don’t want to deal with a situation where a child has been injured.

“Put the cell phone down, put the cup of coffee down and pay attention,” Lieutenant Altman added. “It’s about making the public aware to be safe around buses.”

School buses are the safest mode of transportation in Ohio, according to the Highway Patrol, but in 2010, 1,695 crashes across the state involved school buses.

Fortunately, Mr. Haase, who has been driving buses for seven years, has not had a child struck by a motorist during his rounds, but there have been close calls.

About two years ago, though, he was dropping off at least two children on Brint Road and was holding his hand up to signal that it wasn’t OK for the children to cross.

Just before he put his hand down, a woman, who was talking on her cell phone, “zoomed by,” Mr. Haase said.

For most of the year, when troopers are not following the buses, bus drivers try to record license plate numbers and driver descriptions of anyone who violates the laws.

The information is faxed to the Highway Patrol and troopers follow up.

“Nine times out of 10, the driver of the vehicle says ‘I just couldn’t stop on time,’?” Sergeant Foltz said of the follow-up investigations.

For bus drivers to write citations, they have to get a license plate number.

If the vehicle passes too quickly, drivers sometimes radio another nearby bus and hope the driver will catch it. Because that can be difficult, Sylvania schools, about a year and a half ago, installed cameras on buses.

Mr. Kahl has a folder several inches thick with drivers caught passing buses this year.

Sylvania schools transports more than 5,000 students every day and has 80 bus routes, Mr. Kahl said.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.



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