GALLIPOLIS — With the new school year fast approaching and children attending preseason sports practices at many area schools, the Ohio State Highway Patrol will be out in full force to ensure those kids are safe.
Specifically, OSHP wants drivers to be alert for stopped school buses that will soon be on the road again every weekday once school starts.
“All Ohioans play a part in making it safe for students to load and unload school buses,” said Lt. Max Norris, commander of the Gallia/Meigs highway patrol post. “Motorists must be cautious when driving near school buses and parents should teach their children to stop and look both ways before crossing the street. The Patrol will do our part by watching for motorists driving recklessly and inspecting school buses.”
Extra patience and attention will help make a safer school year for children statewide, he said.
Gallia County had 11 reported crashes that involved a school bus while Meigs County checked in with 10 such incidents. In District 9, which also includes Ross, Pike, Scioto, Lawrence, Jackson, Vinton, Hocking and Athens counties, there were 145 motor vehicle crashes that involved a school bus.
Statewide between 2012-14, there were 3,972 traffic crashes that involved a school bus, according to OSHP statistics. Ten of those crashes resulted in 13 deaths, but none of the fatalities were on a school bus. In 2014 alone, there were seven fatal bus crashes that killed 10 people. Those crashes occurred between September and December of that year.
Norris said motorists should remember to stop at least 10 feet back, per Ohio law, when approaching a school bus from either side while it displays flashing lights and an extended arm, and to not resume driving until the school bus begins moving.
From 2012-14, 4,059 drivers were convicted of failing to stop for a school bus that was loading or dropping off passengers. OSHP wrote 1,446 citations during that time.
Norris added that motorists should plan ahead and allow extra time for school bus stops. Motorists are also urged to exercise patience and never pass a stopped school bus, he said.
As for inspections, Ohio law requires that OSHP conduct school bus inspections for the state. Every bus used to transport students is inspected before the start of each school year and once more during the year. Between 2012-14, OSHP performed 136,765 such inspections — an average of 45,588 per year.
The school year begins Aug. 20 for schools in Gallia County Schools and Gallipolis City Schools; Aug. 26 for Meigs and Eastern schools, and Aug. 27 for Southern Local Schools.
Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.