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Failure to stop a growing problem

Police looking to quell accidents, school bus passing

Posted: March 15, 2012 - 10:14pm

Every week, drivers “scream” past stationary school buses with their red lights flashing.

“Several times a week,” said John Jevons, a local school bus driver. “It happens far too often. It’s not once or twice a month. I hear it on the radio. Sometimes it’s multiple drivers a day.”

Failure to stop at stop signs and traffic lights and unlawfully passing school buses are issues of concern for local police, but their small departments limit time spent enforcing the crimes. Residents also have a constricted role in catching the perpetrators.

Local law enforcement officials said they patrol the Central Peninsula’s roadways to deter traffic violations rather than to apprehend offenders.

“The goal is not to arrest or write citations but to stop the illegal actions,” said Soldotna Police Sgt. Rob Quelland. “We want to keep people driving safe and free of dangerous drivers.”

In 2011, the Kenai Police Department cited 85 drivers for failing to stop at stop signs and 25 drivers for failing to stop at red traffic signals. 

However, no citations were written for failing to stop for school buses. 

Soldotna Police cited 31, 29 and zero of the same statistics, respectively. 

Drivers who illegally pass buses are hard to report. License plates on residents’ vehicles are dirty and unreadable, Jevons said. 

“It’s a miracle these dangerous drivers haven’t killed somebody, and that’s not an exaggeration,” he said. 

His bus was totaled March 7 while conducting a “dry run,” an initial test of a new route required by contract. A truck passed a slowing car; not realizing the bus had come to a stop.

Alaska State Troopers report the truck was speeding at 60 miles per hour. The bus lifted off of the ground, Jevons said. 

As of March 9, he remained at Central Peninsula Hospital with neck and pelvic injuries.

A total of 38 percent of fatalities of students loading onto and unloading from school buses are caused by vehicles passing the bus illegally, according to the National School Bus Loading and Unloading Service.

Each department on the Peninsula ideally maintains one to two officers patrolling the roads each day. Limited resources, however, hamper their ability to patrol during shifts and in between calls to service.

“To put it in perspective, we receive over 600 calls for service per month on average,” said Kenai Police Sgt. Gus Sandahl. “So, when you have two or three officers on duty at a time they’re going to be responding to calls throughout the day.”

Enforcing traffic violations and targeting aggressive drivers is a priority, he said. 

Noon to 6 p.m. is the best time for officers to patrol the roads. Sandahl said his department’s yearly statistics show this 6-hour period contains the highest number of car crashes. 

There is also time allotted for officers to patrol problem areas with high occurrences of criminal activity and off-road violations. 

In 2006, as many as 245 crashes, 190 injuries and two fatalities in Alaska were attributed to running red lights. Nationally, public costs for red light running crashes exceed $14 billion per year, according to the Alaska Highway Safety Office. 

Residents can report drivers who speed through red lights and stop signs, but often little is achieved with the secondhand information, officials said. An officer cannot validate the alleged violation. A person must be willing to testify in court. It helps police if there were multiple witnesses to the violation, such as a passenger or students waiting for a school bus.

On the one hand, concerned citizens step forward with claims of traffic violations.

“In those scenarios it’s less likely someone will be cited,” Sandahl said. “But it depends; some people are very adamant about what they’ve witnessed.”

On the other hand, when police contact the driver who allegedly committed the violation, he or she is certain no unlawful actions were committed. This makes it hard for authorities to establish probable cause.

Failing to stop at a stop sign is a $100 fine and four points are added to the driver’s record, and failing to stop at a traffic light is $150 and four points. Passing a school bus with its lights flashing is a criminal offense with a mandatory court appearance and six points added to a record.

A vehicle passing a school bus is a serious offense, Quelland said. 

“The bus driver takes all the precautions to make sure the kids are safe,” he said. “It’s far worse than speeding or running a stop sign, but I think most people are cautious of (flashing) lights while driving.”

Law enforcement officials work with First Student, a leading school bus transportation services company, which uses a detailed reporting system that sends information to dispatch via the bus driver. The model of the vehicle, a description of the driver and direction of travel, as well as other details, are included in the reports. 

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spwright
1376
Points
spwright 03/16/12 - 08:19 am
0
0
Hire more State Troopers

It is a Proven Fact that assigning more State Troopers to Highway Patrol is the Fastest & Most Effective method to reduce Traffic Deaths on the Sterling & Seward Highway.

13 Billion in the Ak Cash Reserve, 43 Billion in the Permanent Fund

What could be more Important than the Death of Fellow Alaskans ?

HIRE MORE STATE TROOPERS

Or delay some more, assign a committee, do more research,
Talk, Talk then when that's done Talk some more.

SPW"Airborne"

bornalaskan
31
Points
bornalaskan 03/16/12 - 01:31 pm
0
0
Stop Signs and Lights

I for one have noticed that more and more people are running stop signs. And stop signs on school grounds and if you go by police stations there are cars not in use which tells me there are probably officers in the building that should be patroling cant do there job behind a desk. Maybe the police should be voted in instead of hired. A thought to ponder.

fedupwiththepublic
17
Points
fedupwiththepublic 03/16/12 - 02:43 pm
1
0
unreal

You know I read your comments and i am not sure if you realize the true problem. It is not the amount of troopers we have or the amount of money we are spending or not spending. The problem lies with.....YOU. The drivers themselves who cannot seem to pay attention to what is going on around them. Being impatient to get to where they want to go either because they do not give themselves enough time to get where they are going or they just don't give a crap about other people on the road. There are more and more drivers everyday and we all need to start taking responsibility for they way we drive. It's not the tax payers fault you have not figured this simple little task out. If you can't drive safely then get off the road and make more room for those of us who want to be on the road and go places....safely. Remember that it is not just you on the road...it's you kid, parent, grandparent, family member, friend

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 03/16/12 - 03:21 pm
1
0
Ya can't fix Stupid

Reply to fed up. No matter how much YOU rant & rave about Bad Drivers YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID.
Your Character is determinded by your behavior when No One is Looking.
The only immediate solution is to Hire more State Troopers to enforce the Traffic Laws.

I worked at a local Ele School for numerous years. Part of my Duties was Morning Traffic Cop during the Morning Arrival.
Over 500 Students & Parents, 11 School Busses, 400 Private Vehicles & All arriving at the School w/in 20 minutes every School Morning. It was My Duty to Keep the Students Safe during that Mad House each morning.
so Yes I KNOW All about Stupid Drivers & Bad Driving.
Believe it or not: Just parking a Empty Police Cruiser on the shoulder of the the road made those Drivers Slow Down & Behave Themselves. We did that numerous times & it worked.

Retiree SPW "Airborne"

jlmh
352
Points
jlmh 03/16/12 - 03:35 pm
0
0
I can't say that I've seen

I can't say that I've seen other drivers running stop signs or traffic lights. What I see all the time are blind passes. Those really scare me, because it's potentially a high-speed collision with little or no warning. What can drivers do about this?

At least with stop signs and traffic lights, you have an opportunity to look around you and see if traffic has stopped or slowed down to a likely stop. I suspect these are low-speed collisions when they occur, as traffic is likely coming from a stop or at least occurring at lower speed limits. There's also the potential for stationary cameras, which can at least be used as supporting evidence in reporting a driver or establishing liability in a crash - even if generating automatic tickets has been a rough sell. Oncoming traffic that appears suddenly and unexpectedly around a corner at accelerated passing speeds is much deadlier, less avoidable, and difficult to patrol on the hundreds of miles of highways throughout the state.

alaskantimberwolf
0
Points
alaskantimberwolf 03/16/12 - 05:54 pm
0
0
Running School Bus lights

To those who run the red lights, whether you succeed or not I have only one thing to say: You are Child killers. And one day you shall succeed. Then what.

busntheroad
7
Points
busntheroad 03/17/12 - 09:14 pm
0
0
Maybe Alaska should legislate

Maybe Alaska should legislate tougher laws for passing the yellow ambers and reds on school buses.. Many states have done this. Matter of fact Iowa did this AFTER the fact of a child killed and struck by a vehicle passing a school bus.

http://www.schoolbusfleet.com/Channel/Regulations/News/2012/03/05/Iowa-illegal-bus-passing-bill-advances.aspx

Not four weeks ago a Yukon passed a school bus that had just loaded students only to hit another vehicle head on.. this last incident the driver passed on a double yellow..around a blind corner and didn't even hit the brakes..When is it going to be one of OUR kids??

Parents at schools..start yielding to the school buses in the school parking lots! Your supposed to! PLUS its 5MPH in those same parking lots!

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