Don't Pass the Flash
It’s not a new problem, it’s an old one. It’s not a problem that can be completely eradicated by technology or massive funding. It’s a problem that can only be solved by common sense and an inherent understanding that obeying a simple law can save the life of a child.
“We hope that by bringing additional and consistent awareness to drivers that passing a stopped school bus, with its stop arm extended and lights flashing, is not only illegal, but inherently dangerous might help keep our children safer,” said Hanover Community School Corporation Superintendent, Mary Tracy-MacAulay. “Anything we can do to increase the safety of our children, we will do,” she added. Hanover instituted two new safety initiatives since the tragic loss of three children in Mentone, Indiana, 90 miles west of Hanover Schools. “Both initiatives have been staff led,” said MacAulay. “Our Hanover Hazard Initiative asks drivers to turn on their own hazard lights whenever they come upon a bus stopped to pick up or drop off students. ‘The Hanover ‘Hazard’ initiative features a short video explaining the procedure is currently available on the Corporation’s webpages and YouTube Channel.
The Hanover Community School Corporation YouTube video features a Hanover bus and employees. The message asks motorist to turn on their hazard lights whenever they encounter a bus stopped to load or unload students.
Our newest initiative, ‘Don’t Pass the Flash,’ is a portable billboard campaign reminding drivers not to pass a school bus when the stop arm is extended and flashing,” explain MacAulay. Hanover School Corporation has worked closely with the Cedar Lake Police Department in identifying more than half a dozen hot spots throughout the community and will rotate the signage to ensure that maximum attention is given to trouble spots. Placement of the portable billboards is scheduled to begin by the end of February. Cedar Lake Police Chief, David Coulson is working with the Superintendent, Director of Safety and Security and the Director of Transportation of Hanover Schools to put officers in place at hot spots to ticket violators as often as possible.
These portable billboards will be seen at "hot spots" throughout the Hanover community beginning the week of February 25th.
One such hot spot, on Parrish Avenue has significant challenges for both parents and drivers and will be one of the initial locations where a “Don’t Pass the Flash” sign will be located. For Hanover parent, Jessica Kidd, the initiative has special meaning. Her son, Jaxon, is a kindergarten student in the Hanover district and is the face of the portable billboard campaign. Her fears for her children are real. “Several times I’ve had to pull Jaxon back to safety when a driver passed a stopped bus,” said Mrs. Kidd. “Drivers speeding and passing the stop arm when it’s out are both real problems. I worry that drivers who just don’t care are going to cause an accident involving the bus or injure a child getting on or off the bus. There are no sidewalks in my area, which just adds to the danger,” she explained.
Hanover bus drivers consistently deal with stop arm violators. “I love the kids,” said driver Dave Goggans, a veteran of nearly nine years. “Every day I see violations from speeding to passing on a double yellow line, to stop arm violators.” Goggans is passionate about what he does, and has been doing it since he retired from Ford Motor Company; “These are my kids. I love them, good or bad” he added with a smile.
Hanover Bus Driver Dave Goggans has help from the kids he transports and loves when it comes to identifying stop arm violators.
Goggans, like most bus drivers, does everything he can to keep his kids safe. “I hold the kids until everyone has stopped. I will reach out and grab them and make sure they don’t get off the bus until I’m sure no car is moving.” Goggans credits parents with helping out. “When the parents are standing out there waiting for, or with, their kids, people tend to stop,” he said. He was also extremely grateful to the Lake County Sherriff’s office who recently spent a day ticketing drivers on a particularly difficult part of his rural route west of Rt. 41. “I had the squad car number and several of our parents, the Transportation Director and I all called to express our appreciation to that officer.” It is difficult for bus drivers to get license plate numbers while driving and monitoring students on the bus, but Goggans has gotten creative and enlisted the aid of one of his students. “She sits behind me, ready to write down any number I give her. I told her if Mr. Dave says to write something down, write it down. It’s how we were able to get the squad number to offer our thanks,” he said. You can see the frustration and concern on Mr. Dave’s face. “I just want to ask some of these people, what would you do if these were your kids?”
Hanover is taking additional action to catch stop arm violators. Several cameras are currently being considered for installation on buses. “While it is imperative that we identify repeat offenders, it’s equally imperative that we always be pro-active and I believe our ‘Hazard and Don’t Pass the Flash’ initiatives are definitely a step in the right direction,” said MacAulay.