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Aug 11, 2014 10:55 PM by Lupita Murillo

School bus safety: Zero Tolerance enforcement campaign

TUCSON - It's the second week of school parents, students, and the public are getting re-acclimated to school zones, and school buses on the road.

But some people don't always pay attention so the Pima County Sheriff's Traffic Enforcement Unit is making sure they do as they launch Project Bus. A grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety is making it possible for the Traffic Enforcement Unit to dedicate officers to various schools for their Zero Tolerance enforcement campaign.

Project Bus is aimed at making sure motorists are obeying traffic laws around school buses. One deputy sits on the bus two others are on the road close by.

Deputy Bill Nunez tells News 4 Crime Trackers, "People have to realize they are putting the lives of children in jeopardy our kids. We want to prevent that from happening."

Martha Yates is a bus driver for the Amphitheatre School District. She says the cars just don't want to stop. Even when the stop arm is blinking as students are boarding or unloading off the bus. "You never know when a child is going to dart out in the middle of a street."

Sgt. Bill Murphy heads the Traffic Unit; he sits in position on his motor bike so when the deputy on the bus sees a motorist not following the law, Sgt. Murphy is ready to chase them down.

Within half an hour of the bus leaving the depot, a motorist is spotted and Sgt. Murphy gives them a citation. Their excuse according to Sgt. Murphy, "...unfamiliar with Arizona Law. They didn't understand they needed to stop for the bus when it was at a roadway without a median."

Gene Carlson a retired New York City Police Officer has been driving for Amphi schools since 2000. He says some of the drivers, "Flip me the bird as they ride by, some of them tell me they are in a hurry and can't wait. What are they going to say when they hit somebody? That they didn't see us? We're 45 feet long, yellow flashing red lights in the middle of the day."

Sgt. Murphy gives Project Bus a "B+" for the morning's operation. The bus drivers give the sheriff's department and "A+" for keeping the students safe.

The bus drivers also mentioned, they wished other law enforcement agencies would do the same thing so as to get the message out, running the arm stop signs on a bus won't be tolerated.

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