PARKERSBURG - With school starting today, residents of Wood County are reminded to stop for all buses with red lights flashing, officials said.
The return of school marks the return of buses on the road and children on the streets, said Richard Lance, transportation director with Wood County Schools. In order to keep the children safe, drivers must be aware of their responsibilities when faced with school buses stopped on roads and in school zones, he said.
Law enforcement is asking for everyone to slow down and leave plenty of times to get where they need to be, officials said.
When motorists encounter a stopped school bus with its lights on and its stop sign out, they must stop behind the bus, Lance said.
"We have areas in the county where drivers are known to pass stopped school buses," he said.
All school buses are equipped with external cameras, and violators who pass stopped school buses will discover the hard way that their actions have been caught on tape, Lance said.
All reports of motorists passing stopped school buses will be taken seriously and dealt with accordingly, said Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.
"School bus drivers have the authority to report people passing stopped buses directly to (Wood County) Magistrate Court," said Martin.
Buses stopped on multiple-lane highway areas in the county still require all traffic in all directions to come to a complete stop, Martin said. Motorists may not use the second lane in the same direction to pass the bus, and all motorists going in the opposite direction must stop for the bus as well, he said.
The only exception to this rule is for traffic going in the opposite direction and only if there is a grass median between the lanes, which does not apply to any location in Wood County, Martin said.
The speed limit in school zones is 15 mph when the lights are flashing, Martin stressed.
Every school zone is marked with signs throughout Wood County, Lance said. All drivers are asked to be alert at school zones, watching for buses and children on foot.
"We want everyone to slow down and watch out for the kids," Lance said.
Law enforcement will be present at most schools throughout the county during the first couple weeks of school, Martin said.
Vienna police position an officer with his lights on in the turning lane outside of Neale Elementary School every day, said Vienna Police Chief George Young.
Vienna police also position officers randomly in schools zones throughout the city, Young said. Officers will be watching for those who disobey school zone speed limits and laws, he said.
Parkersburg police will also have additional forces present in school zones during the first two weeks of school, Martin said.
When motorists approach a school zone, they should slow down and be alert for children, Lance said. When approaching a cross walk or a crossing guard, motorists should be careful to obey traffic signals given by those crossing guards, he said.
Do not pull into cross walks at intersections, Martin said. All motorists should stop at the bold white line painted at the entrance to an intersection, not on top of it or beyond it, he said.
Pulling beyond the white line blocks the crosswalks that children should be using to get to and from school, Martin said. Even if there is no crosswalk painted at the intersection, pedestrians still need to use the area accordingly, he added.
"Just allow more time to get where you want to be, especially during the first few weeks of school while everyone adjusts to buses on the roads again," Martin said.