By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
To protect students, Yukon police and the Yukon school district have partnered in an initiative to combat drivers who fail to yield to school buses.
“We want to raise awareness among drivers about how serious a violation this is, what the dangers are and what could happen if they don’t stop for a school bus,” Yukon Police Major Matt Fairchild said.
“Badges on Buses” kicked off Tuesday and will continue Wednesday during both morning and afternoon bus routes.
The Yukon Police Department is working in conjunction with Yukon Public Schools to “combat drivers who fail to stop for school buses when they are stopped to load or unload students,” Fairchild said.
“We’ve compiled data of several areas that we wish to target based on the complaints that we’ve received from our bus drivers.”
Most of these targeted areas are away from YPS school sites.
“It’s more of our rural areas,” Fairchild said.
Yukon police officers in “Badges on Buses” are riding on Yukon school buses and calling out violations to nearby officers in unmarked patrol cars, who then take necessary enforcement action. Officers are watching out for drivers who don’t stop for school buses.
By state law, drivers are required to stop when a school bus’s red lights are activated and when a school bus is stopped to load or unload students.
School bus drivers are required, by law, to report any violation they observe. Those violations are, in turn, reported to the police department.
“We send out warning letters to the registered owners of those vehicles,” Fairchild said.
In Yukon, drivers who fail to stop for a school bus face a fine of up to $275 and an automatic suspension of their driver’s license.
“The objective of this operation is to ensure the safety of our students who ride school buses,” Fairchild said. “The Yukon Police Department has plans to continue this initiative for the remainder of the school year and into the coming years in order to ensure that drivers follow the law.”
STUDENT SAFETY NO. 1 GOAL
Christy Clemons, YPS transportation director, thanked Yukon police for partnering with the school district to keep Yukon students safe.
“Our number one goal is student safety and we’re excited to work with the Yukon Police Department on this project to increase awareness,” Clemons said.
Clemons described special shirts that were made to launch the “Badges on Buses” initiative. The shirt proclaims, “If the Lights are Flashing, Don’t Try Passing.”
“We do have cameras on our buses,” Clemons said. “We do not have the outside ‘Stop’ arm violation cameras on our buses. It is something we’re looking at doing in the future.”
After this week’s two-day “Badges on Buses” event, the YPD plans to conduct other similar traffic enforcement efforts. These will be done randomly and unannounced, according to Fairchild.
Fairchild referred to videos that show students who have almost been struck by a vehicle while crossing the road after stepping out from a stopped school bus.
“I don’t think a lot of drivers realize what kind of fines they face and the fact they also could have their driver’s license suspended,” he said. “Our main objective is to raise awareness.”
Norman police completed similar traffic enforcement program in 2013 and Yukon police thought it would be good to implement here, according to Fairchild.