Cops watch for red-running drivers

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

School has started, and police want drivers to make sure they’re stopping for flashing red school bus lights.

Sweet Home Police Officer John Trahan is going to help make sure that happens.

Trahan recently has been riding buses, watching for violators, with nearby officers ready to pull the violators over when Trahan calls them. Trahan will ride buses periodically throughout the year to help enforce compliance.

Main Street, with its heavy traffic, is one of the biggest concerns inside the city limits, Trahan said, but Highway 228 is also a problem area.

When school bus lights flash red, drivers must stop and remain stopped until the lights are turned off, he said.

The only exception is for drivers in the oncoming lanes when a physical barrier divides the highway, such as the downtown section of Main Street where the east- and west-bound lanes are divided by a median.

The fine for violators of the law is $427. In a school zone, the fine rises to $679.

“It’s really expensive, but who really cares about the price of a ticket if you collide with a kid,” Trahan said.

Bus drivers say they’re concerned about the possibility of children being injured by drivers who don’t obey the law.

“My life would never be the same if something happened to a child,” driver Julia Alford said.

Drivers ignore the flashing red lights every day, she said.

“It’s not really any particular stop. Fridays, they’re always in a hurry, and Fridays are the worst. Frequently, they don’t even look. It’s like they’re thinking about something else,” Alford said.

Students are not allowed to cross Highway 20, she said, but cars need to stop just in case something happens and a child darts into the highway.

The safety of the kids is what’s important, Trahan said. It’s important even for the drivers, who should “think about what they’re going to have to deal with” if they hit a child.

At 26 mph, a child hit by a car has an 80 percent chance of dying, Trahan said, based on figures he learned while attending the Police Academy.

This makes sense with a 4,000-pound vehicle. Force is multiplied the faster it goes, he said. When a vehicle is traveling slower than 26 mph, the chance of survival increases to 80 percent.

“The whole moral of the story is no one wants to hit a kid,” Trahan said. People may get upset about a ticket, but “can you really deal with hitting a kid?”