SEYMOUR, IN (WAVE) - It is an unconventional method that is producing results. The Seymour Police Department launched an operation to catch distracted driving offenders using school buses.
Thursday WAVE 3 News rode along to see the operation in action.
According to Captain Carl Lamb, distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents in Seymour.
In an effort to combat the problem, Capt. Lamb came up with an idea after watching a police show about officers in semi trucks looking for traffic offenders.
"I thought, we could do the same thing with school buses," he said.
It is unsuspecting. The school buses have tinted windows and usually have kids on board. And the buses provide a great vantage point, allowing officers to see into cars from above.
An officer will have the task of spotting drivers using a phone with their hands while a vehicle is in motion, and looking for drivers who are not wearing their seatbelt.
"We're going to be looking for anyone who is behind the wheel of a moving car, who is going to be looking at their phone or doing something with their phone with their hands," Assistant Chief Craig Hayes said. He is the one assigned to spot distracted driving from the school bus.
Indiana law says texting or e-mailing is a violation if the car is moving. Talking on the phone is not a violation, and neither is social media, so officers are carefully checking to make sure drivers are violators of the law.
Once the spotter has identified an offender, the officer radios a nearby squad car who will pull over the driver and ask if they are in violation of any of these offenses.
We were only on the bus for 20 or 30 minutes and pulled over three seatbelt violators and one person texting and driving. Seymour PD is not surprised with how many distracted drivers were discovered during Thursday's operation.
Officers tested this out in July, with pretty staggering results.
"We had 34 citations in a four hour period. Even a marijuana arrest," Capt. Lamb said.
And there is another benefit to putting officers on the school buses. With or without kids on board, drivers who are aware of this new operation will be encouraged to drive more safely around buses.
"So the goal is to get people to drive more safely anytime they see a bus in Seymour," Capt. Lamb explained.
That is a plan the school system can get behind.
"Stop-arm violation is the number one complaint of all school bus drivers. Distracted driving is the over half of them," Tim Fosbrink, Supervisor of Transportation at Seymour Community schools told us.
The operation is funded by a federal gr ant as part of Operation Pullover.