Police use unusual mode of travel to catch offenders


The director of transportation for Seymour Community Schools can give motorists 4,300 reasons to remain alert and attentive while driving around the corporation’s school buses.

That’s the number of children that ride the corporation’s 46 buses back and forth from home to school each day, Tim Fosbrink said.

Their safety is the main reason the corporation is on board with a Seymour Police Department initiative to put officers on those buses to look for distracted motorists, he said.

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Seymour Capt. Carl Lamb introduced that initiative Thursday at Freeman Field Recreation Area and talked about its focus.

“We want to get people to buckle up and put their phones down,” Lamb said. “We want the motoring public to try to guess when and where a police officer is going to be on a bus.

“When motorists see a marked police car now, they put down their cellphones or grab their seat belts and try to put them on. Nobody thinks anything about a school bus.”

He said motorists will never know when an officer will be riding in one of the school buses, including the minibuses, since all have tinted windows.

Officers did a test run of the program July 20 and had a lot of success, he said.

“We focused on seat belt usage and issued 34 citations in a four-hour period,” Lamb said. “Even a marijuana arrest was made.”

On Thursday afternoon, officers took to the buses again and issued 81 traffic citations, including 53 for seat belt violations, and two for texting while driving. They also issued nine warnings for motorists texting during the five-hour period.

Because the buses are higher, officers are able to look down into vehicles to determine if motorists are texting or wearing a seat belt properly, Lamb said.

When officers riding buses see a motorist not wearing a seat belt or committing some other violation, they will radio an officer trailing the bus in a patrol car, who will then stop the vehicle and ticket the motorist.

The hope is that motorists will drive safer all of the time but especially when they see a school bus, he said.

It could be any time of day, and there might or might not be kids on the buses at the time, Lamb said.

“You will never know,” he said.

Lamb said Tipton Street or U.S. 50 will be the focus of the initiative because that’s where most of the accidents occur.

In 2015, the top eight intersections for crashes in Jackson County were on Tipton Street. Sixty wrecks occurred at those intersections that year.

He said the major cause of wrecks in the city each year is distracted drivers, while the major cause of injury in those wrecks is unrestrained motorists.

Reducing wrecks and injuries along with school bus stop arm violations are the major goals of the program, but the initiative also has a couple of secondary benefits, Lamb said.

“No. 1, it’s going to calm the kids down,” he said. “So the driver of the bus becomes less distracted because things are calm.”

Lamb said he came up with the idea while watching the news one night at home and saw state troopers riding in trucks looking for traffic violations in Oklahoma.

He said Seymour’s program is rare and may be one of a kind in the Midwest, if not the country.

Fosbrink said this past school year, there were about 250 school bus stop arm violations.

“I would say over half of them were distracted driving because of people texting and doing this and that and the other,” he said. “If this helps deter that, then we are on board.”

Fosbrink said school bus drivers report each stop arm violation to the corporation either right after it happens or at the end of the day.

“It depends upon what’s going on,” he said. “If there is a kid that comes close to getting hit, they can hit us on the radio.”

While the corporation has not had a child struck by a vehicle in many years, there were several near misses this past year, said Fosbrink, who went to work with the school corporation as a bus driver in 1980.

Katie Turner, a senior and member of Seymour High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter, said it’s super important to make sure all of the kids who ride buses are kept safe.

“We’re just trying to raise awareness that distracted driving is not good,” said Turner, who attended the event with other chapter members.

She said national statistics show 70 percent of accidents occurred because people are texting and driving, cleaning their mirrors or messing with the air conditioner or radio.

Turner said she tries not to do any of those types of things while driving.

Lamb said the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is funding the initiative with federal funds that pay overtime to officers involved in it.

John W. Mull of Rushville, who is the institute’s Southeast Region law enforcement liaison, recognized Lamb and the department at the end of the news conference with a certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the initiative.

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