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School officials issue bus safety reminder to drivers

By TYLER BENNETT

PARKERSBURG — As summer break ends and the school year begins in the Mid-Ohio Valley, drivers need to be on the lookout for buses and students as they travel to and from schools in their daily commute.

While the number of students in in-person classes is down compared to years past due to the COVID-19 pandemic, drivers must still be watchful, officials said.

“It may be an unusual start, but school is back in session,” said Superintendent Will Hosaflook in a press release. “Our top priority is the safety of students and staff, and that includes on their way to and from school. We just urge everyone to slow down, give yourself a little more time to get where you’re going, and to be very watchful for buses and students, especially in school zones.”

Vienna Police Chief Mike Pifer said the first week back to school is the hardest for drivers to adjust, so the Vienna Police Department has been monitoring all four schools in its jurisdiction to keep everyone safe since the school year began Sept. 8.

An example is Neale Elementary, located in one of the highest traffic areas in Vienna on Grand Central Avenue.

“Vienna is a little different in the fact that we try to put an officer in front of Neale before and after school to get people to slow down. That is a continual problem through there, so we ask that people be aware of the 15 mile per hour school zone signs or see crossing guards or close proximity to a school,” Pifer said.

“They will see a Vienna police officer there normally every morning and afternoon of the school day. So we asked them to be extra careful there because Grand Central or West Virginia Route 14 is a very busy road and right now they’re doing a road construction project. There are cones, crossing guards, kids, and police. There’s a lot going on right there,” he said.

Pifer has also seen that, with the rise of cell phones a part of everyday life, it gives more cause for concern of drivers not paying attention to the road. “We’re aware that distracted driving is an issue here the past decade or even more. We urge people to pay attention to what’s going on on the roadway. It’s easy to become distracted with everything, everyone has going on. But we just want to be extra careful during school time,” Pifer said.

When seeing a school bus stopped or getting ready to stop, motorists must come to a complete stop when behind or in front of a bus. Motorists should never pass a stopped school bus in any direction so children will be able to get on or off the bus without any danger.

Passing a stopped school bus in West Virginia carries a minimum fine of $50 and a maximum of $200 and is a six-point hit on the drivers’ license. Speeding in a school zone also citable and punished by a fine and six points against a license.

Failure to stop for a school bus in Ohio will add two points on the license and can be punishable by a fine of up to $500 with the judge able to suspend the license for up to one year. Injury to a pedestrian enhances criminal charges and exposes the driver to civil liability.

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