Students, Drivers Honored at Pennsylvania School Bus Safety Awards

HARRISBURG, Pa. – PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards joined other Pennsylvania school bus safety advocates yesterday to honor twelve students for communicating important school bus safety messages and six school bus drivers for their superior driving skills during a ceremony at the Governor’s residence.

The students, in kindergarten through eighth grade, were recognized for their winning entries in the 2015 School Bus Safety Poster Contest. The theme for this year’s contest, “Bully Free Zone!” stressed the importance of having a bus and bus stop free from harassment and bullying so students can be safer while waiting for and riding the bus.

Governor Tom Wolf proclaimed Oct. 19-23 as School Bus Safety Week in conjunction with the national celebration.

“By taking part in the poster contest, these young artists use their talent and creativity to help us communicate important safety messages,” said Richards. “This year’s creations reinforce the importance of respecting one another at the bus stop and on the bus – a smart choice which can save young lives.”

This year’s winners were chosen from 623 public and private school student entries. The first-place entries will be forwarded to a national competition to be judged at the end of this month.

Also during yesterday’s ceremony, Richards and Captain Michael A. Patrick, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Patrol, Pennsylvania State Police, presented certificates and Governor’s citations to six school bus drivers for winning the 2015 Pennsylvania School Bus Driver Safety Competition. Held each June, the competition tests school bus drivers’ knowledge of safety rules and safe operation of their buses.

“Bus drivers do an extraordinary job every day ensuring the safety of our children as they travel to and from school,” said Patrick. “These drivers serve as a model for all school bus drivers and this recognition further reinforces the trust parents have in them.”

During the ceremony, Patrick also announced that “Operation Safe Stop” would be conducted statewide. Local and state law enforcement agencies, school districts and student transportation agencies will unite to raise awareness of the consequences of improperly passing school buses. Police officers will be watching for motorists who violate the school bus stopping law. If possible, school bus drivers will also document any illegal passes occurring on their routes and will file reports with local police.

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.

In 2014, more than 600 motorists were convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law. The same year, there were 365 school bus crashes with no school bus passenger fatalities. School bus drivers in Pennsylvania travelled over 393 million miles during school year 2013/14, transporting more than 1.5 million students daily.

For more information about school bus safety, visit PennDOT’s highway safety website, and select the School Bus Safety link under the Traffic Safety Information Center. The website also offers an interactive feature illustrating Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law.

iWnners for the poster contest and driver safety competition:

2015 School Bus Safety Poster Contest Winners

Division 1 (Grades Kindergarten – 2)
First Place: Averie Bejar, Morey Elementary School, Stroudsburg, Monroe County
Second Place: My-Lan Pham, Arrowhead Elementary School, Collegeville, Montgomery County
Third Place: Ivy Lu, Glenside Elementary School, Glenside, Montgomery County

Division 2 (Grades 3-5)
First Place: Hermiony Valdes, Upper Allen Elementary School, Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County
Second Place: Mason Bejar, Stroudsburg Intermediate/Elementary School, Stroudsburg, Monroe County
Third Place: Jazzlyn Lusby, Clay Elementary, Ephrata, Lancaster County

Division 3 (Grades 6-8)
First Place: Claire Toomey, Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School, East Stroudsburg, Monroe County
Second Place: Ian Reese, Whitehall Coplay Middle School, Whitehall, Lehigh County
Third Place: Kira Weiner, Springfield Middle School, Oreland, Montgomery County

Division 4 (Special Education)
First Place: Samuel Pejack, Elmwood Elementary School, Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County
Second Place: Katie Sorokes, Crestwood High School, Mountain Top, Luzerne County
Third Place: Samantha Hand, Elmwood Elementary School, Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County

2015 PA School Bus Driver Safety Competition Winners

Conventional Bus
First Place: Ruth Del Vecchio, Chester County; Krapf Bus Companies
Second Place: Larry Hannon Sr., Bucks County; Centennial School District
Third Place: George Soverns, Fayette County; Rittenhouse Bus Lines

Transit Style Bus
First Place: Michael Webster, Lebanon County; Brightbill Transportation
Second Place: John Welsh, Montgomery County; Lower Merion School District
Third Place: Ted Dubbs, Montgomery County; Lower Merion School District

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