Calera police enforce bus safety

Published 10:39 am Thursday, October 12, 2023

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

CALERA – An ongoing and serious problem facing school transportation has been met with a hands-on solution by the Calera Police Department in recent weeks.

Unsafe driving around buses, such as speeding or individuals not stopping in opposing lanes to observe a bus stop, are incredibly dangerous scenarios that can result in tragedy. A horrific reminder of this fact was fully displayed on Thursday, Oct. 5, when a 15-year-old student from Appalachian High School was struck and killed by a driver in Blount County.

An increase of reports that risk similar catastrophe were also being observed in Calera, and in the beginning, normal precautions and measures were put in place in an attempt to mitigate instances of dangerous driving behaviors.

“Early in this school year we started posting patrol vehicles in hot spots around schools to try and control speeding,” said David Hyche, Calera Chief of Police.

In many instances, according to police, dangerous driving of this type is being observed in the younger population and in those departing and going to the schools they attend.

Initially, the stationing of officers in visible and strategically selected locations seemed to have the intended effect, but this only lasted for a short time. While the police presence was noticed quickly, police also observed that their positions were being reported on through social media.

“Kids from the high school soon started posting our location on social media and the speeding continued,” Hyche said.

It was noted that the areas where police were stationed saw decreases in dangerous driving, while areas where they were known not to be saw no noticeable decrease. Department leadership soon realized that a new approach was necessary in order to enact a change before an incident resulted in tragedy.

“Two weeks ago, we met with some school bus drivers and managers and decided to randomly put officers with radios on buses to document these incidents and catch offenders in the act,” Hyche said. “This takes a lot of time and several additional officers but we think it’s worth it to potentially save a child’s life.”

Officers, while riding buses are now able to stand watch and report first hand when incidents occur. They can then quickly radio units that remain nearby active bus routes and allow them to make the necessary stops and issue citations and warnings as events happen.

“We modified our approach and it seems to have helped,” Hyche said. “We also learned of numerous occasions involving cars speeding past stopped buses loading or unloading children.”

Hyche is hopeful that this new approach will begin to alter behaviors and make inexperienced drivers realize the magnitude of importance their behavior has on not only public safety, but their own. Until then, he considers the resulting tickets and citations an infinitely small price to pay when faced with the potential alternative.