As the school year continues, thousands of students will be using Williamsburg-James City County buses assuming the traffic is safe.
But that’s not always the case.
“I would be such a senseless act should a child get hurt or worse for something that is so easy to control,” said Williamsburg Police spokesman John Heilman.
The Williamsburg Police Department, the James City County Police Department and WJCC School Division transportation teamed up to start a campaign that aims to make drivers more aware of bus stops and the safety laws around them.
Recently, James City County posted a “Stop for School Buses” video that featured officers from both departments describing the dangers of drivers passing while students get on and off school buses.
“The video concentrated on drivers and their obligations when a school bus stops,” Heilman said. “But it is just as important that kids have a duty to be safe as well. It’s not safe to assume a driver is going to see you.”
Virginia law states that drivers in both directions on a road are required to stop for school buses when children are getting on and off. But, it seems that some people either don’t know the law or have forgotten.
According to the video, last year there were 1,000 reported arm stop violations in the school district.
Since Sept. 3, James City County Police have already charged four drivers with speeding in a school zone and two for passing a stopped school bus, said Stephanie Williams, spokeswoman for the department.
Williams said those numbers are slightly increased from the previous year, with only four charged with speeding and one for passing, but this could be because there are more officers on the lookout.
“Around the beginning of the school year we try to increase the presence [of officers] in school zones and busier bus areas,” she said. “Our increased presence in those areas provide a visual reminder to people.”
As a school resource officer in WJCC, Heilman said he works closely with parents and students and hears their concerns regularly.
Williams said she believes a lot of the passing is a result of distracted driving. Drivers have said after being stopped that they simply didn’t see the bus.
With the new campaign, the district and police departments hope the issue will decrease and people will become more aware while driving.
“We just need to get the message out there so people have no excuse to not know the laws,” Heilman said.