As motorists around the country continue to ignore school bus regulations, accidents and even deaths involving school buses seem to be on the rise.
Municipalities around the country are brainstorming different ways to increase school bus safety and protect the precious cargo they carry everyday. Below are just three of the innovative ways police departments across the country are working to promote school bus safety.
Operation Big Bird
Police departments in Wood County, Ohio, are combining their resources to help promote school bus safety through Operation Big Bird.
This operation involves placing an officer on a school bus as children are picked up during the normal routes. As officers ride along, they keep an eye out for school bus violations. If they observe a violation, they alert a fellow officer who is following the bus in a separate vehicle.
“We were having a lot of school bus violations coming in, and it all started with one of our patrolman; his name is Scott Mezinger,” said Perrysburg Township Police Sgt. David Molter Jr. “It really all began in a brainstorming session to address school bus safety and school bus violations.”
But instead of just involving the Perrysburg Township Police Department, the department enlisted the help of seven surrounding departments. These include the city of Perry Police, city of Rossford Police, Lake Township Police, Northwood Police, Wood County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Bowling Green Police Division.
“We really thought it was important to invite the other jurisdictions,” said Perrysburg Township Police Lt. Matt Gazarek. “We really wanted to have a multi-jurisdictional effort, hopefully to impact the safety of our children and educate the motoring public on the importance of school bus safety.”
Not only are the officers educating the public about school bus safety, but they’re making an impact on local schoolchildren as well.
“They see us on the bus; they have time to talk to us,” said Gazarek. “We want kids to be comfortable coming to us if they have issues, and by doing this, we’re right there with them. We really thought it was a cool thing to do for the kids and to also get the information out to the public.”
The departments have completed Operation Big Bird twice since it originated in September 2019. During their latest operation, 98 school buses were followed throughout the week and 11 different officers were placed on buses.
“The whole objective in the end is to make sure you’re making the public aware of what’s going on,” said Mezinger. “Our goal isn’t to go out and write a bunch of tickets. Our goal is to go out and have zero school bus violations.”
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