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Jon Andreassi/Observer-Reporter

PennDOT Acting Press Officer Jay Ofsanik demonstrates how drivers should stop about 10 feet away when a school bus is picking up or dropping off students in this file photo from August.

It’s National School Bus Safety Week, and local school districts and police departments are reminding motorists to protect children by following bus safety laws.

On Wednesday, the 25th annual Operation Safe Stop will be conducted in communities across Pennsylvania as part of School Bus Safety Week.

Operation Safe Stop is a public awareness and enforcement effort to educate the motoring public that passing a stopped school bus when children are loading or unloading is both dangerous and illegal.

Aaron Scott, transportation director at Trinity Area School District, said motorists pass school buses “almost daily” on school district roads.

“In South Strabane, by Cameron Estates, they run the reds a lot there,” said Scott. “Especially on Jefferson Avenue and, surprisingly, in Amwell Township on Route 19, cars will pass.”

Each year, through Operation Safe Stop, law enforcement agencies, school transportation providers, pupil transportation associations and the state Department of Transportation have combined their efforts to raise public awareness about the potential consequences and to reduce the number of illegal school bus passes.

Trinity School District is partnering with local law enforcement agencies to promote safe driving around buses.

“It’s a pretty serious issue. Obviously the safety of the kids is important,” Scott said.

On Wednesday, Trinity and other participating school districts will have their school bus drivers document any illegal passes occurring on their routes during the day. The drivers can get identifying information about the vehicle and provide it to local authorities.

National School Bus Safety Week highlights Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stopping Law, which prohibits drivers from passing a stopped school bus with flashing red lights and an extended “stop” sign. That law applies both to drivers behind a bus and drivers approaching from the opposite direction.

If a bus is stopped at an intersection, all drivers at the intersection must also remain stopped until the bus departs.

The only time drivers don’t need to stop for a stopped bus is on a roadway with a clearly defined barrier, such as a concrete or grass median. Drivers traveling the same direction as the bus have to stop, but those traveling the opposite direction on the divided highway can continue.

Under state law, someone who passes a stopped school bus can be fined up to $250 fine, accumulate five points on their driving record, and get a 60-day driver’s license suspension.

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