CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia education officials say State Police will ride with more school buses to help catch people who illegally pass the buses.
Troopers conducted a weeklong sting operation on 23 bus routes in 12 counties last week. State education officials troopers rode along on school buses and caught people ignoring the flashing lights and extended stop sign on a stopped school bus several times over the course of the week.
Five tickets were issued to drivers, a state Department of Education spokeswoman said Friday. Another violation occurred during a route in Randolph County, but a state trooper had already left the bus.
State Police stationed a trooper on school buses armed with a radio with a second trooper following in an unmarked car. When someone illegally passed the school bus, the trooper on board notified the trooper following to stop the vehicle.
Motorists are required to stop when a bus extends its sign. But education officials estimate about 600 people a day ignore the signs and illegally pass a school bus every day in West Virginia. During a recent survey, school bus drivers in Kanawha County reported being passed 37 times in one day, drivers in Cabell County reported being passed 34 and drivers in Berkeley County reported being passed 27 times.
In 2007, Haven McCarthy, 6, of Lincoln County was killed when she was hit by a car that illegally drove around a school bus. The driver pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was fined $50.
Lawmakers responded with Haven's Law, which makes it a felony to illegally pass a school bus if someone is hurt or killed. A driver who hurts someone while illegally passing a school bus faces up to three years in prison and a $2,000 fine. A driver who kills a child can now spend up to 10 years in prison and pay a $3,000 fine.Failure to stop for a school bus is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.