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Police on special duty to enforce new school bus safety laws

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) — Now that school is back in session, police are cracking down on people who drive past stopped school buses or speed in school zones.

“You know, we’ve all seen these tragic stories of kids getting hit by cars that are passing school buses, and that’s what we’re trying to prevent here in Fort Wayne,” Fort Wayne Sgt. Andy Irick says.

Working overtime with a partner, Sgt. Irick focused on locations where bus drivers have reported stop arm violations.

A state grant pays that overtime for Fort Wayne, New Haven, and Allen County police.

“Right there, Andy, that blue Mazda. Clear.”

The officers say the woman driving the blue Mazda blew past a stopped school bus that had its stop arm out near Illinois Road.

Sgt. Irick pulled her over and explained why.

“She started crying and said she’s going through a lot right now and she was in her own little world… I guess everybody else stopping wasn’t a visual clue? I heard the bus honking their horn and everything. Yeah,” he says.

The grant doesn’t allow police to give warnings, so Sgt. Irick issued her citation for a Class A infraction, meaning a judge will likely suspend her license for 90 days and could fine her several thousand dollars.

The goal of the enforcement detail is stop arm violations, but officers are focusing on areas around schools, as well.

“Which includes speed enforcement through the school zones, crossing guard protection, and generally just looking for kind of reckless driving behavior around schools when the kids are coming or going…. And we’re going to go stop this one right here,” he says.

Sgt. Irick and his partner ticketed three people for speeding in school zones.

“The reason why I’m stopping you today is we’re targeting enforcement around schools and school zones and things. You were going 45 in a 25, okay? Is there a reason you were going so fast? To try to get to work. Trying to get to work, okay,” Irick says to a driver.

Sgt. Irick works third shift and had already put in eight hours of regular work, but he has kids of his own so he asked for the overtime.

“It can be kind of taxing after working a full shift in a different part of the department or in a different part of the city to do this, so you really have to put your heart and soul into it when you’re out here working these traffic details. And I think it’s really rewarding, actually, to come out and do this for our kids every morning,” he says.

The state grant for police overtime to target drivers like this will run through the middle of September, but officers will always look for people who put students’ safety in jeopardy.

Since Tuesday, Fort Wayne police have ticketed four people for blowing past bus stop arms and 15 people for speeding in or near school zones.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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