CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State troopers are riding along with students across West Virginia this week as government agencies try to crack down on the estimated 600 motorists a year who illegally pass stopped school buses.If they spot a violator, they'll radio another officer to make an arrest.State Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple says failure to stop for buses puts children at risk of injury or death about 120,000 times each school year."We must do everything we can to make sure our children are safe,'' she said today.
The Department of Education is working with the Governor's Highway Safety Program, the Department of Transportation, the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute and others to educate the public about the problem.Members of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association will help by posting public service announcements at their stores.West Virginia school buses travel more than 41 million miles each year, transporting about 230,000 students each day.A study last year in 38 of West Virginia's 55 counties found 408 violations at 445 locations in a single day. It found that about 58 percent of violations occurred during afternoon runs, while 42 percent were in the morning.At one stop alone, the survey found, 10 cars illegally passed a stopped bus.Two students have been hit this year. Though neither died, one was in intensive care for two weeks, said. Benjamin Shew, executive director of transportation for the education department."These incidents occur way too often,'' he said. "... Our goal is really a zero-tolerance of any illegal passing.''In 2010, West Virginia legislators passed Haven's Law, named for 6-year-old Haven McCarthy, who was killed in 2007 after getting off a school bus in Lincoln County.Drivers who fail to stop for a bus and cause an injury can now face up to three years in prison. Conviction for a death can mean 10 years in prison.Even a driver who fails to stop but doesn't cause an injury can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail.