TUSCARAWAS COUNTY – For Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Alex Carroll, the task of school bus safety zone enforcement is personal, and a bit different from his former familiar overnight 12-hour shifts.
Law enforcement is something he always wanted to do as a kid. Reminiscing about growing up on the south side of New Philadelphia he said, “As a kid we’d get on U.S. 250 heading up to Canton — or whatever we were going to do — and I always saw a trooper in the crossover in a white Crown Victoria (patrol car), and it was inspiring. I always looked up to them.”
After graduating from New Philadelphia High School, class of 2012, he went on to study law enforcement for a couple years at Stark State, eventually enrolling and graduating from the OHP academy. From there, he spent his first year working at the Lisbon post in Columbiana County and then transferred to New Philadelphia. At that time, he was living in Dover, and would commute an hour and 10 minutes to Lisbon. “My idea of a dream job was to be working for the Highway Patrol at the New Philly post — to come back home and work this area,” he said.
He recently switched to working days due to a new approach to scheduling. Following school buses and posting near schools has become a component of his job that takes up about one-quarter of his daily shift.
Working in a school zone, Carroll sits in his cruiser and checks cars for potential speed violations. “You have better results sitting stationary,” he noted. All the while, he’s keeping an eye on pedestrians, and anything else that pops up.
Enforcement in the safety zone hits close to home for Carroll.
“That kid — you compare it to yours, and you want to keep them all safe. It kinda hits a little differently when you’ve got one of your own that you can relate a little differently to,” he said.
Working a safety zone is just part of a trooper’s duties. While enroute from one school enforcement zone to another early Wednesday morning, a call from the dispatcher over Carroll’s radio sending him to search for five loose donkeys along Henderson School Road NE. None were found, and it was surmised the owner was able to corral the animals. Of course, troopers also handle far more dangerous and situations, such as a Tuesday evening car chase that involved multiple agencies.
School Bus Safety Week
It is National School Bus Safety Week, which is dedicated to promoting safety while also teaching children to follow safety rules on the bus and informing drivers about the laws regarding school buses.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the creation of the Ohio Bus Safety Working Group following the death of 11-year-old Aiden Clark, a Northwestern Local School District (Clark County) student who was killed on Aug. 22. A vehicle collided with the school bus he was riding.
“There is always more that can be done when it comes to the safety of children, and I believe we have an obligation to take a holistic look at the safety of our school buses. This group’s review will be thorough, focusing on many different aspects of transportation safety,” he said.
MORE:Fatal school bus crash revives seat belt debate in Ohio
Troopers have been increasing enforcement efforts on school bus violations by targeting specific areas throughout Tuscarawas County during their normal patrol routes, or to and from other types of calls as call volume and prioritization permits. Violations include passing a stopped school bus, school zone violations and other school bus or school zone-related activity.
A press release from the patrol states School Bus Safety Week “is supported by the National Association for Pupil Transportation and serves as a reminder to motorists, students and school bus drivers of the important role they all have in ensuring children’s safety. This year’s theme is BEEP! BEEP! School Bus Safety Starts with Me, a unique reminder to both motorists and students about the dangers that exist outside the school bus.”
Laws are very specific about the rules of the road for safety zones, and the indicators for motorists are even clearer. According to the patrol, motorists approaching a stopped school bus from either direction are required to stop at least 10 feet from the bus while the bus driver is receiving or discharging students. When a road is divided into four or more lanes, only traffic driving in the same direction as the bus must stop. Drivers may not resume their travels until the bus starts moving.
More:Bus driver shortage plagues Tuscarawas Valley school districts
Tips for school bus safety
The importance about talking to your child, or children, about bus stop safety is highlighted by some key tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Stopping for school buses: When you see a school bus slowing down or stopping, it’s not just the bus that you need to have your eyes on — but the surrounding area too. Children wait at least several feet away from a bus and often cross the street when they’re boarding or getting off the bus. This is why you must stop for school buses, and don’t attempt to pass.
- Before the bus arrives: Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus arrives. Ahead of the new school year, visit the bus stop and show your child where to wait for the bus, at least 10 feet — five giant steps — away from the curb. Remind your child that the bus stop is not a place to run or play.
- Getting on and off safely: When the school bus arrives, your child should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay to get on or off. Your child should use the handrails to avoid falling.
- Using caution around the bus: Your child should never walk behind a school bus. If your child must cross the street, cross in front of the bus. Tell them to walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street to a place at least 10 feet in front of the bus before crossing. Your child should also make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see the child crossing to avoid the danger zone. If your child drops something near the school bus, like a phone or book, the child to tell the bus driver right away. Your child should not try to pick up the item, because the driver might not be able to see them.
MORE:No injury reported from Dover school bus accident
T-R staff photographer Andrew Dolph can be reached by phone at 330-289-6072, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org