HAMILTON COUNTY — Erin James is a school bus driver for the Hamilton Heights School Corporation. She’s been on a drive around the northeast part of the county, including part of State Route 37, for seven years.
“30 seconds isn’t worth a child’s life,” James said outside his bus.
The route taken by James’ 46 bus is considered one of the most problematic for reckless driving in school zones and around his bus. She recalls drivers frequently ignoring bus stop rules, including stop arm violations.
“The stop arm violations got worse for a while until they started following us,” she said.
“They” are deputies like Sergeant Kevin Crask of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. On Friday, he follows James on his morning pick-up, keeping an eye out for reckless driving – like arm stop violations and speeding. WRTV followed.
“We have officers doing it all the time now. We will choose different schools to follow, different buses to follow, different routes,” Crask said.
According to the Hamilton County Traffic Safety Partnership, more than 100 arm stop violations or citations have been issued since October 2020 across the county.
– Stop Arm violations/citations issued from 01/10/2020 to 30/09/2021: Total – 71
– Stop Arm violations/citations issued from 01/10/2021 to 31/03/2022: Total – 36
The data is part of the reason the sheriff’s office is stepping up patrols. To cover overtime costs, he uses grants under the Stop Arm Violation Enforcement program, better known as “SAVE.”
“SAVE” is a federally funded, data-driven grants program distributed by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Its goal is to reduce reckless driving in school zones and around school buses.
“Across the state of Indiana, we have approximately 200 agencies participating in this particular mobilization this year. In central Indiana alone, about 40 agencies participate,” said Devon McDonald, executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
According to the Indiana Institute of Criminal Justice, last year alone more than 2,700 Hoosier drivers were cited for stop arm violations. Agencies interested in “SAVE” must apply, and then if selected, they are required to submit programmatic reports.
James says she appreciates the presence of law enforcement.
“A lot of times when people see an officer following me, they stop. Whereas if their [law enforcement] presence wasn’t there, they’ll just pass quickly,” she said.
When picking up bus 46 on Friday morning, drivers obey arm-stopping rules. Crask hopes this will continue.
“Absolutely, it’s a good day. That’s what we want – everyone on their best behavior,” he said.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office will continue these enhanced patrols through the end of the school year.
Below is a list from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute of Central Indiana agencies participating in the SAVE program.
» Boone County Sheriff’s Office
» Lebanon Police Department
» Whitestown Metropolitan Police Department
» Zionsville Police Department
» Thorntown Police Department
» Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department
» Carmel Police Station
» Fisherman’s Police Department
» Noblesville Police Department
» Westfield Police Department
» Greenfield Police Department
» Fortville Police Department
» McCordsville Police Department
» Brownsburg Police Department
» Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department
» Avon Police Department
» Plainfield Police Department
» Danville Police Department
» Pittsboro Police Department
» Johnson County Sheriff’s Office
» Franklin Police Department
» Greenwood Police Department
» Madison County Sheriff’s Department
» Anderson Police Department
» Pendleton Police Department
» Ingalls Police Department
» Elwood Police Department
» Edgewood Police Department
» Chesterfield Police
» Alexandria Police Department
» Summitville Police Department
» Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department
» Fast Lane Police Department
» Beech Grove Police Department
» Indiana State Police District 52
» Lawrence Police Department
» Cumberland Metropolitan Police Department
» Morgan County Sheriff’s Department
» Martinsville Police Department
» Mooresville Police Department
» Shelby County Sheriff’s Department
» Shelbyville Police Department