Police get more money to keep kids safe at school bus stops

Police are stepping up patrols to follow school buses in an effort to catch violators. (WTHR Photo/Rich Van Wyk)

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WTHR) – Some drivers seem as if aren't getting the message that kids are back in school. They can't speed though school zones or run past stopped school buses.

Police departments are putting extra cops on the street to catch them. A $380,000 state grant will pay the over-time bills. In Fortville, police are eager for that check to arrive.

Fortville is aggressively enforcing the 25 mph school zone limits.

Within 15 minutes, an officer stopped two drivers, speeding at 41 mph. Officers are also chasing down drivers who pass stopped school buses.

"Is there a reason you didn't stop for that school bus?" the officer asked as he walked up to the stopped pick-up truck.

In the police body camera video the driver is heard saying that he didn't mean to. A field sobriety test performed by the officer determined the driver was drunk.

"I've never been handcuffed in my life," the driver said.

The officer responded, "You shouldn't drink and drive and pass a school bus."

"It's scary that our children have to worry about intoxicated drivers out on the roads while they are just trying to go to school," said Assistant Chief Patrick Bratton.

In just five days, the small department wrote more than 11 speeding tickets and three stop arm violations.

Although Bratton insisted children's safety is a top priority, he admitted "It is not easy and it is not inexpensive."

Many departments have to pull officers off of their normal patrols to follow school buses.

Following just one bus just can take more than an hour. There was no money to have officers work over time, until now. Fortville is getting $2,000 from the state.

"That grant allows officers to go out and ride in the buses and watch out for stop arm violators while another officer is close by to make the stop," Bratton explained. "It allows us to follow school buses."

In just one day last year, Indiana school bus drivers counted 2,653 drivers ignoring the stop arms.

In October, three siblings were killed and another child was critically injured while crossing the street to reach their school bus.

The legislature responded with tougher laws and stiffer fines for driving past stop arms.

In Fortville, drivers speeding through school zones may only get a warning.

"Bus violators will not," Bratton said. "They've had their warning and they will receive no more."

That state grant is being divided among 39 law enforcement agencies. They can't sit on that cash. It has to be spent during August and September.

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