PD sees results with zero-tolerance bus stop policy
Published 4:32 pm, Friday, January 15, 2010
Parents, teachers and school employees are likely a large portion of those targeted in a proposed zero-tolerance policy for motorists who pass stopped school buses, according to New Canaan Police Capt. Leon Krolikowski.
During Monday night's Board of Education meeting, Krolikowski played videos recorded by cameras installed in the district's school buses, revealing more than a dozen incidences of motorists passing stopped school buses on school grounds.
"It's probably parents," he said. "It's probably someone associated with the school."
It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus that has its red warning lights activated. When these lights are flashing, motorists must stop their vehicle at least 10 feet from the front of the bus and at least 10 feet from the rear of the bus. Flashing yellow lights on a school bus should be considered the same as a yellow traffic signal, which warns drivers to prepare to stop.
Currently, motorists who violate this infraction are subject to a $460 fine.
The police department and the school district are working together to make the zero-tolerance policy a reality.
In the last 18 months, NCPD officers have investigated about 25 violations, about 20 of which have led to infractions, Krolikowski said. Two of these infractions were issued last week between Jan. 5 and 6.
The effort for increased compliance, called Operation Safe School Bus Stop, involves the stationing of officers on school buses and in unmarked vehicles traveling behind buses.
Another program component is education.
"We need to make clear that the owner of the vehicle is responsible if the operator of the vehicle is not identified or produced," Krolikowski said. "Right now that's not clear."
The school district secured a grant to intensively enforce violations near all school grounds for a 10-week period in April, May and September, Krolikowski said.
"We will have several officers per week just assigned to enforcement around the schools," Krolikowski said.
Along with Police Commission Chairman Jim Cole, also present during the presentation, Krolikowski detailed further efforts being taken by the commission and department to secure stricter enforcement of the current law and enhanced penalties like court appearances, misdemeanor violations or mandatory license suspension.
"... We're trying to get the law to catch up with this kind of technology," Krolikowski explained. "Right now the statute that allows us to enforce this violation requires either an officer to see the violation himself or, if it's reported to him, the school bus driver needs to give a written statement with a description of the vehicle, the description of the operator of the vehicle, et cetera, which sometimes is very difficult to do."
Krolikowski also said he would like to see the addition of video footage as acceptable evidence of the violation.
"I view violations of this sort close to driving while intoxicated -- it's that dangerous," Krolikowski said.