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School zone violations soar in Ohio County

OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. -- Drivers are ignoring school bus signals and putting children in danger - it's become a serious problem in Ohio County.
Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger and Ohio County Schools Supervisor of Transportation Dave Ziegler are asking the public to slow down and pay attention.
Bus drivers have reported numerous situations in the past couple of weeks concerning school buses being passed, cut off and ignored. Leaders say the issue is serious because children's lives are at stake, and they are asking drivers to pay attention.
"When you have vehicles a block away and the bus has its read lights on and you still pass that bus, there is a good chance those kids will still be in the street when that car gets there," Ziegler said. "It's a serious situation we need to stop this.
"From talking to the drivers, they are seeing a lot of distracted drivers, drivers on the phone, drivers on the radio and just don't pay attention, fixing hair, putting on makeup."
Ziegler and Schwertfeger met Thursday afternoon to discuss the issue.
They also addressed the public, working to educate drivers that when they see a bus with its signals on, going any direction, they must stop.
"Some of our hot spots in Wheeling are on four-lane stretches along National Road that are undivided, and the law's clear when you have an undivided highway," Schwertfeger said. "Despite the fact you are traveling on the other side of the highway, you are still required to stop and I think people don't realize that."
The chief says it's a serious offense.
According to West Virginia code, your first stop you could get a fine between $150-$500, 6 months jail time and you could temporarily lose your license. The penalties get more severe for repeat offenders. He says there's just no excuse.
"Think of the impact. Think about what you're doing, what could happen beyond a $150 fine," Schwertfeger said. "Killing a child. That's what you need to think about when you're traveling."
Again, if you see a bus stopped on either side of the road with no divider, you are to stop. If not, there could be serious penalties. Wheeling police officers will be patrolling.

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