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Troopers board buses for safety week

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ohio -- If you've seen a state patrol cruiser trailing behind a school bus this week, there's a good reason.

The bus driver isn't doing anything wrong, but they are looking for drivers who are. Indian Creek bus driver Shelley Vahalik sees drivers ignoring buses' flashing lights more than you might think.

"Probably two-to-three times a week," she said. "We're on the road so many hours that we see it a good bit. Sometimes it shocking that they just don't even stop."

Vahalik has been behind the wheel of Indian Creek school buses for 20 years. Every year, she looks forward to School Bus Safety Week and the passengers that come with it -- one Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper on board and one trailing behind.

"If I do witness a violation, I'll radio to him, let him know a violation occurred so he can find the vehicle and make a traffic stop on them," Sgt. Robert Bodo of the OSHP said.

Troopers will be highly visible out on the roads this week, though they maintain a significant presence in school zones all year long.

While troopers and school bus drivers continue to keep their eyes on the road locally, nationally there is a push to get cameras mounted in and outside of the bus and also to extend those stop arms.

"Any improvements they can make to the school buses for the safety of the kids would be a great help," Bodo said.

In the last 2 years, more than 4,000 motorists in Ohio were cited for failing to stop for a school bus when it was loading or unloading children.

"I thought that was an alarming rate," Bodo said.

Troopers say obeying the signs is simple and should be common sense.

"The 10 seconds it takes you to speed around these school buses is not going to make or break your day," he said. "Just slow down around these school buses and watch the kids."

National School Bus Safety Week runs through Oct. 23.

Troopers explained what they're doing on the buses this week to the students and hope the message gets home to parents too.

If you're cited for passing a bus, there is a mandatory court appearance and a fine of nearly $200.

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