Grant aimed at safer school bus stops in St. Joseph County

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - It looks like the long arm of the law will be laser focused on the stop arms of school buses over the next few weeks.

At least that promises to be the case in areas that have received SAVE grants.

SAVE stands for Stop Arm Violation Enforcement. In places like St. Joseph County, there promises to be a lot more of it this year.

A $25,000 grant will pay for police overtime at a half dozen police departments in St. Joseph County. Up to 140 hours’ worth of overtime can be used to provide additional officers to watch for school bus stop arm violations.

“We want you to actually be prepared to stop. Start slowing down and stop when that arm starts to come out and those lights flashing red. Because if you don't, you're going to see one of our officers out there working this overtime, and they're going to write you a ticket. Zero tolerance for it right now,” Mishawaka Lt. Tim Williams said.

Furthermore, passing a school bus recklessly can now be treated as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a 90-day driver’s license suspension.

“It’s a misdemeanor offense, so eight points on your license. That's a big deal. It’s not a joke anymore, passing a school bus,” Williams explained. “Penn-Harris-Madison one day had over 73 violations, so with their buses out there, and some of those passed on the right side of the actual school bus while it was loading or unloading, so it happens a lot more than people think.”

The only time someone can legally pass a school bus with its stop arm down is when they are going in the opposite direction down a divided highway where lanes are separated by a concrete or grass barrier.

The St. Joseph County grant money will be used by the Mishawaka, South Bend and St. Joseph County police departments, as well as departments in Lakeville, Walkerton and New Carlisle.