Grand Island law enforcement joined with the Grand Island Central School District's Transportation Department to take part in Operation Safe Stop Thursday, April 21.
Police departed the Transportation Department at about 6:30 p.m. to follow Island buses on their rounds hoping to crack down on drivers who disobey traffic laws regarding passing stopped school buses.
Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard said the sheriff's office scheduled 18 marked and unmarked vehicles patrolling selected bus routes that have a history of illegal passing complaints within the sheriff's primary patrol districts. In addition to the primary patrol districts, the sheriff's office had roving patrols throughout the county.
Operation Safe Stop's statewide enforcement against passing stopped school buses was conducted April 21 with two details; 6 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. According to the sheriff's office, the deputies focused on the dangerous driving behavior of illegal passing of stopped school buses, which put children at risk of injury and possible death and strict enforcement of vehicle and traffic laws protecting our children and school buses.
The sheriff's office has participated in Operation Safe Stop Day since October of 2003. Since the inception of this partnership, law enforcement agencies, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, and the New York Association for Pupil Transportation have been active in coordinating this traffic safety initiative. The goals of Operation Safe Stop are to reduce fatalities and personal injuries of schoolchildren through the use of visible enforcement and to educate motorists of the laws against illegally passing stopped school buses.
According to the sheriff's office, in the past four years, 35 students were hit by motorists passing stopped school buses in New York, and the New York Governor's Traffic Safety Committee estimates 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass school buses every day.
Participants in Grand Island's Operation Safe Stop are, pictured, from left: Deputy Chris Soluri, Erie County Sheriff's Office; bus driver Kathy Jackson; New York State Trooper John Betker; Jackie Steckelberg; Deputy Ricky Lundberg, Erie County Sheriff's Office; Theresa Alizadeh, district transportation director; Tim Blevins, chief mechanic of the Grand Island Transportation Department; Kelly Lesinski, Transportation Department; bus driver Amy VeRost; Rick Staub, mechanic, Grand Island Transportation Department; bus drivers Denise McMahon and Nancy Heftka; Tom Franz, Grand Island Police; and Deputy Cully Ferrick, Erie County Sheriff's Office. (Photo by Larry Austin)