State commits more than a half million dollars to school bus safety

Money was set aside before state discovered over 7,000 violations in one day

July 25, 2011|Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

More than a half million dollars has been committed to law enforcement agencies across the state to improve school bus safety, the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention announced Monday.

Though the commitment comes months after a one-day study the State Department of Education discovered more than 7,000 violations by drivers regarding school bus safety, the two are not related, a state spokesman said.

"There's no direct cause and effect," said Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Office of Crime Control and Prevention. "It just adds to the urgency."

Of the 7,028 violations that took place during the single-day study in February, nearly 4,000 were by oncoming drivers who ignored the stop arm extended on the driver's side of the bus that requires motorists in each direction to stop and wait for the bus to unload and pull away.

Forty-six agencies are to receive the funds, which total $548,000, through the Maryland School Bus Safety Enforcement Fund and can be used to pay overtime for police to enforce safety laws as well as for driver education activities such as public service announcements, according to the GOCCP.

The Maryland State Police will receive the largest financial commitment, of $160,000, according to Toohey.

Toohey, who worked for the Baltimore County Police Department for 14 years, said the number of violations came as a surprise to law enforcement officials.

"I had no idea the problem was that severe," Toohey said.

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