School starts back in Boone County for students on Thursday, Aug. 22.
With many schools across the state scheduled to open within a little over a week, the Boone County Board of Education, the West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education want to remind motorists to exercise extra caution.
A survey of West Virginia school transportation directors shows that on any given school day, about 600 motorists illegal pass stopped school buses, putting the lives of schoolchildren at risk of injury or death about 120,000 times each year.
“School bus transportation is the safest way to get children to school each day,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares. “Yet, when motorists fail to obey the law, they endanger the lives of our children, our drivers and themselves. It is our responsibility as parents, students, bus operators, motorists and school administrators to obey the law and provide a safe ride for our children.”
Each year in West Virginia, about 224,000 students climb aboard 3,700 buses that safely travel more than 48 million miles to and from school. Across the country, school buses provide more than 10 billion passenger trips each year.
“We ask motorists to be extremely cautious, pay attention, and obey the bus signals while the students are being loaded and unloaded from the bus,” Phares said. “Avoid the urge to use your cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. Not only is it now against the law to do so in West Virginia, it is a real threat to the safety of our children.”
Drivers who fail to stop when a school bus stops and flashes its warning lights can be charged with a felony if their actions result in injury or death. A driver who causes an injury faces up to three years in prison; a driver who kills someone could be put in prison for up to 10 years.
Drivers who simply fail to stop can be charged with a misdemeanor and jailed up to six months.