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Badges on Buses sting nabs four drivers

A woman who was talking on her cellphone was one of four people stopped this week during the Yukon Police Department’s Badges on Buses effort.

Maj. Matt Fairchild said the woman told officers that she drove past a bus that was stopped with its red lights flashing and a stop sign extended because she never saw the bus.

Fairchild said he wasn’t sure if the woman received a ticket, but each of the four drivers certainly received a stern warning.

Fairchild, along with several other officers, rode buses Tuesday and Wednesday to remind drivers that it is against the law to drive past a school bus that is loading or unloading students.

Fairchild said that the two-day event, which was announced in advance, is meant to bring attention to the dangers that children could face.

“Things went great. Our main goal was to bring awareness. We accomplished that. We reached a lot of people,” Fairchild said.

The police officers worked closely with the Yukon School District’s transportation department to put the program into action.

He said that while officers rode buses, other officers were in unmarked cars and were provided with tag numbers and descriptions of the violating vehicles.

Tickets for driving past a stopped school bus could be as high as $271. The driver’s license could also be suspended.

“People need to be more attentive and know what the law is. Some drivers don’t know they have to stop,” Fairchild said.

The major concern, he said, is that children can get hurt or killed while crossing the street.

“You can’t expect children to always pay attention. It is the driver’s job to make sure that no kids are running out in front of them,” he said.

The Badges on Buses effort is not a one-time event, Fairchild said. Officers will randomly ride buses throughout the remainder of the school year, and again next fall.

“This was a saturation-type event. The goal wasn’t to write a bunch of tickets,” he said, adding that the goal was to bring attention to the situation.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kevin Still recently signed HB 1926 into law.

The new law, which will go into effect Nov. 1, will allow school districts to install video-monitoring systems on their buses to capture images of vehicles that drive past stopped school buses.

The law also creates a fund that will provide grants to help schools pay for the equipment.

Fairchild said the law will be beneficial because it will allows police departments to send tickets to the owner of the vehicle. Now, when a bus driver witnesses someone drive past the school bus, a warning letter is sent.

Yukon school officials said it plans to update the video systems on all 57 of its buses beginning next week.

The $67,000 investment will include dash cameras that will indicate when the red lights are flashing, said Transportation Director Christy Clemons.

“The cameras will see what the driver sees,” she said.

According to Clemons, the issue of drivers passing school buses in a concern.

“It is a pretty big problem. We had officers stop three vehicles yesterday,” she said Thursday.

Yukon runs 34 routes with its buses each day.

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