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WCASD Participates in Operation Safe Stop

Officers from West Goshen and Westtown-East Goshen Police Department

As part of National School Bus Safety Week, the West Chester Area School District (WCASD) teamed up with local police departments for the 26th annual Operation Safe Stop.

Communities across the state participated in Operation Safe Stop on Wednesday, October 20th. The school bus safety initiative, organized by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, is to educate and remind motorists that passing a stopped school bus when children are loading or unloading is dangerous and illegal.

Locally, officers from West Goshen Township, West Whiteland Township, Westtown-East Goshen Township, and the Chester County Highway Safety Project rode along with students and drove behind busses keeping an eye out for violators.

The WCASD carries the huge responsibility of providing transportation to almost 17,000 students, including private schools and special education services. Over 200 Krapf and On-the-Go school buses travel nearly 3.6 million miles in a school year.

WCASD Transportation Manager Michele Porco said school bus drivers will often report motorists who break the law, but it's not always easy for them to do so. "The bus drivers are trained to keep an eye on the kids as they get on and off the bus," said Porco. "If a motorist runs through the red lights, they do their best to write down the license plate number and report it to police. Parents can keep a watchful eye out and report violators too."

"It happens unfortunately all too often," said Sergeant Ted Lewis of the Westtown-East Goshen Police Department. "We get complaints weekly about vehicles that violate red lights on school buses. Some people realize what they've done, and some people don't. A few violators have no intentions of stopping, but most are distracted for some reason. Unfortunately, and it has pretty severe consequences for children and other motorists in general."

Officer Lewis followed behind the bus bound for Stetson Middle School, keeping an eye out for violators. With the Westtown-East Goshen Traffic Safety Unit, Officer Ted Cam rode the bus with the students to address bus stop safety and bus behavior with students as part of the initiative.

Debra Smith has been driving a bus for Krapf for 21 years, and she said the problem has gotten worse.

"I think everything is in fast forward these days," said Smith. "When I started driving many years ago, this didn't happen quite as often as it does now. It's more aggressive, and it's scary."

Sergeant Lewis added parting words of wisdom for motorists. "Slow down, stop texting, and pay attention to what you're doing. It's all about the safety of the children, yourself, and other motorists."

No violations were reported on any of the bus routes that police monitored on Wednesday. If convicted of breaking Pennsylvania's Bus Stopping law, a motorist faces a $250 fine, five points on their driving record, and a 60-day suspension of their license.

6th Grade students from Stetson Middle School helped to make this video to remind us of important Bus Safety Tips & Pennsylvania School Bus Stopping Laws.