Cops Cracking Down During Bus Safety Week

Local law enforcers are among those in the middle of a West Virginia crackdown on the estimated 600 motorists who annually illegally pass stopped school buses.

To coincide with School Bus Safety Week, which began Monday and continues through Friday, the Wheeling Police Department, Governor’s Highway Safety Program and Ohio County Schools are partnering to keep school zone and bus routes safe.

Police Cpl. Neil Fowkes said drivers will see an increased police presence in school zones, as well as officers in cruisers following school buses.

“Everybody’s in a hurry,” Fowkes said. “People really need to slow down and pay attention to these school buses.”

In 2011, a one-day study conducted in 38 of West Virginia’s 55 counties found 408 instances of drivers illegally passing a school bus at 455 locations. About 58 percent of the violations occurred in the afternoon, while 42 percent were in the morning.

During School Bus Safety Week last year, Wheeling police issued 32 citations for speeding in a school zone and one reckless driving citation.

There is a concentrated effort on Zane Street outside of Madison Elementary School on Wheeling Island. For years, the school has used a crossing guard to escort students through the heavily-traveled intersection to South York Street. Fowkes said police frequently receive complaints about drivers in that area.

On Tuesday afternoon, Officer Josh Anderson had his motorcycle parked on the side of the Zane Street, and stood near the entrance to the westbound lanes of the Fort Henry Bridge looking for any violations by drivers.

Nearby, the department’s mobile trailer flashed messages reminding drivers to hang up their cell phones.