A Crawford County bus driver earned top prize in the 2013 Pennsylvania School Bus Driver Safety Competition, which recently announced its winners as part of the state’s School Bus Safety Week Oct. 21 to 25.
John Choffel Jr., a driver for Girardat LP, was the first place-winner in the transit bus category. Choffel was among the six school bus drivers and 11 student artists as part of the 2013 School Bus Safety Poster Contest who were honored by Gov. Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania State Police at a ceremony at the Governor’s Residence.
Certificates and governor’s citations were presented to the winning school-bus drivers. Held each June, the competition tests school bus drivers’ knowledge of safety rules and safe operation of their buses.
During the ceremony, Pennsylvania State Police’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Division Director Lt. Raymond Cook also announced that “Operation Safe Stop,” a statewide initiative among local and state law enforcement agencies, school districts and student transportation agencies to enforce and raise awareness of Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stopping Law, is being conducted. Police are watching for motorists who violate the school bus stopping law.
At any time, school bus drivers can document any illegal passes occurring on their routes and file reports with local police, who can issue citations. During Operation Safe Stop, drivers are encouraged to be vigilant about reporting violators.
In 2012, more than 720 motorists were convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law. The same year, there were 393 school bus crashes resulting in three fatalities. No school bus passengers or school bus drivers were killed. School bus drivers in Pennsylvania traveled nearly 400 million miles during school year 2011-12, transporting more than 1.5 million students daily.
State law requires motorists approaching a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended, to stop at least 10 feet from the bus. Motorists approaching from all directions are required to stop. However, motorists who encounter a school bus stopping on the opposite side of a divided highway are not required to stop when lanes of the highway are clearly separated by a divider such as concrete barriers or grassy medians.