Three police agencies in Cecil County and two in Harford County have received about $55,000 as part of a statewide grant program to boost school bus safety.
The $550,000 School Bus Safety Enforcement Fund provides money to officers working overtime to make sure drivers stop when a school bus has its flashing lights on.
Not stopping for a school bus in Maryland results in a $275 fine and three points on a license. Stopping but then moving when a bus still has its lights on results in the same fine, but two points.
The Cecil County Sheriff's Office was granted $20,000; the Maryland State Police North East barracks was granted $9,000; and the Elkton Police Department was granted $6,000. In Harford County, the state police Bel Air barracks received $15,000, and the Harford County Sheriff's Office received $4,500.
Cpl. Eric Creek of the Cecil County Sheriff's Office said the problem of cars not stopping for a school bus arises on smaller country roads.
"They're stuck behind a bus, and they're frustrated," he said, adding that the Sheriff's Office requires officers to follow buses from schools to neighborhoods.
"We can't follow every bus every day," Creek said, "but the goal is to be a deterrent."
Each of the 50 officers in the Cecil department, Creek said, will assist with the program about five times during the 2004-2005 school year. Creek said the Sheriff's Office first received a grant three years ago.
Capt. Lawrence Waldridge of the Elkton Police Department said that although this will be the department's first experience with the School Bus Safety Enforcement program, the agency has thought of ways to reduce school-bus-related traffic violations.
Some officers will follow school buses, while others will ride on them to observe violations, he said. An officer who sees a vehicle violating traffic laws will radio assisting units.
With six schools in the Elkton department's 10-square-mile area, Waldridge expects assisting police to arrive quickly.
The state police Bel Air barracks, however, has more than 50 schools in its jurisdiction.
Trooper Kerry Fritz said the $15,000 grant will be used for officers to follow buses and to park in areas that have a high number of traffic complaints.
The General Assembly established the School Bus Safety Enforcement Fund in 2000.
Although the program is 4 years old, state police Cpl. Rob Moroney said its success is difficult to measure. "You can't gauge it by the accidents we're not having," he said. "But when it comes to children's safety, that's a good thing."