By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
HERMITAGE — It might be a matter of people not knowing or understanding the law, but Hermitage school officials said they would like increased police enforcement against motorists who drive past school buses that are picking up or dropping off students.
The problem occurs on the five-lane sections of East State Street and parts of Hermitage Road, said Superintendent Dr. Daniel Bell.
“We’re talking with the police about how to enforce that,” he told the school board Monday.
PennDOT’s website says motorists behind a school bus, meeting a bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped must stop at least 10 feet away from buses that have red lights flashing and stop arms extended.
Vehicles traveling beside a bus must stop until the red lights go out, the arm is withdrawn and all children have "reached safety," PennDOT said.
“If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lane may proceed without stopping,” PennDOT said.
This provision is apparently what people don’t know or understand from the law, officials said.
Parts of Hermitage Road have physical barriers, while others do not. Police Chief Brian Blair noted that the section of South Hermitage Road by the Econolodge, where children board school buses, does not have a barrier and motorists traveling northbound – the bus would be southbound to pick up and drop off kids – must stop, he said.
Another problem area is on East State by Kilgore Mobile Home Park, Blair said.
“When a bus stops at Kilgore’s, motorists are required to stop for both directions because there is no physical barrier on the roadway,” Blair said.
Blair noted there often is a follow-the-leader mentality in which one motorist drives by a school bus because the driver in front just did.
Police have been monitoring the morning and afternoon school bus runs, but encourage bus drivers and companies to contact police to report violators, if possible, or at least problems areas and times of violations.
“These violations are nothing new and are apparently the result of motorists still being unfamiliar with the law – especially when it pertains to areas such as South Hermitage Road, which is quite wide and highway-like,” Blair said. “Motorists, too, have to get used to seeing and dealing with school buses again since the restart of school.”