Bemidji Police Department Kicks Off “Project Stop Arm”
You may remember a video that showed multiple cars in Bemidji zooming past a school bus while its stop arm was out. With these school bus stop arm violations on the rise, the Bemidji Police Department decided to start a new project to maybe catch a few of the drivers.
“Last Thursday was the first day we rode a long with a bus. I had gotten paperwork from the transportation department in the school that of all the reported stop arm violations, this bus that we rode on today had the second most violations this year,” says Officer Randy Moyer.
The project requires two officers. One rides along on the school bus, while the other follows along discreetly in the squad car.
“It’s a learning process, but in the future as we continue to do it more, the [hope] is to be in the area and if there is a violation, we’ll be there to kind of snatch it up and hoping that this story itself will bring more light to it. You know, it’s a concern. It’s a safety violation for the kids,” says Officer Zack Ruport.
The good news is there were no violations during today’s ride-a-long. Going forward, the bus routes and days they’ll do the project will be random. The police say they hope the project will act as a deterrent to potential violators.
“If children are not off the bus yet, it’s a citation. If they are off the bus and on the ground, actually leaving the bus or from the ground and getting onto the bus, it becomes a gross misdemeanor possibility,” says Moyer.
Ruport adds, “State law states that if you’re driving a motor vehicle and a school bus puts its stop arm out and has the flashing red lights, you have to stop. There’s no if, ands, or buts about it. You have to stop.”
The police have monitored high violation routes in the past, but with this new proactive method, they’re hoping more drivers will get the message that any violation of a school bus stop arm is not okay. They say the safety of children is their number one concern.
“The biggest problem to this is probably if you are one that violates a stop arm violation and you strike a child, either killing them or seriously injuring them, I mean, that would be on your conscience the rest of your life, as just being in a hurry or not paying attention,” says Moyer.
If you witness a stop arm violation, you’re encouraged to stop in a safe place and get a license plate number, vehicle description and driver description if possible, and then report the incident to police.