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The strong arm of the law

Attention is paid to school bus stop arms and how to crack down on fly-by offenders

PRINCETON — If you run a stop sign without repercussion, you might save a few seconds in your travels, but if you obey the stop arm each time you see a school bus, you just might save a life.

Princeton Elementary School Superintendent Tim Smith indicated people disregard school bus stop arms far too frequently, and the action affects everyone involved with the situation.

“People need to be very attentive and recognize the bus could stop at any point, instead of being aggressive,” said Smith, who feels that most people care about children, so the problem is their lack of concentration while driving.

Princeton Police Chief Tom Root said blowing past the stop arm on a bus is a serious offense regardless of how often it occurs.

“A driver needs to stop any time they see the arm out. The reason they don’t is they aren’t paying attention, or they’re being impatient,” said Root. “The kids might not be paying attention either, so it’s everyone’s responsibility to stop for the safety of the children.”

Laura Favia is a school bus driver for PES and said she has noticed an alarming increase of fly-by offenders in recent years. Smith indicated all drivers who witness an offender are asked to radio in a description of the driver and vehicle information, so the authorities can be notified.

“We have a zero tolerance policy for fly-bys. You’re going to get a ticket no matter what,” said Root, mentioning the decision to cut a few seconds off a route brings a hefty fine, a state citation and a mark on your driving record. “What if it were your child or someone you knew well? Each incident is very serious to us.”

Root said younger drivers might not understand the seriousness of the crime, but he does not cut a break to those who claim they didn’t see the sign, and Smith reiterates the importance of safety awareness.

“It’s not hard to see a bus; it’s big and yellow. And the stop arm doesn’t come out until the yellow flashing lights come on,” Smith added, noting the bus drivers are attentive to the needs of the children. “We do our best to keep the kids on the curb side, but that’s not always possible. But thankfully most drivers will not open the door if they sense trouble.”

Illinois is considering installing cameras on school buses to help administer justice for those who run a stop arm. Some of the money gained from tickets might possibly be available to school districts to help with transportation expenses, but as of now, the cameras are still in the preliminary stages of consideration.

Smith and Root agreed it’s a traumatic experience for any bus driver who sees the safety of the children they are responsible for come into question, and Favia added there is but one goal for a bus driver.

“Our concern is the safe arrival to school for all our children,” said Favia.

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