Family Focus: Local district goes on offense to prevent drivers from buzzing past school buses

This school year has been deadly for several students across the nation who were hit by vehicles while trying to get on or off buses

School bus safety

BOWLING GREEN (WTOL) - This school year is proving to be deadly for children around the country.

Just when parents think they’re supposed to be safe, several students across the nation tragically have been killed by vehicles hitting them while getting on and off the bus.

We take a deeper look at why and what one local district is doing to fix it.

The headlines are simply heartbreaking. During the last week of October, five children were killed while getting on buses, including, three Indiana siblings hit by a 24-year-old woman as they waited at the bus stop.

In Mississippi, an elementary school student died after being hit while he was trying to board a school bus.

In Tampa, five children and two adults were struck by a driver while waiting at a school bus stop.

And, a 7-year-old boy waiting at a bus stop in Pennsylvania was also hit and killed by a hit-and-run driver.

“Slow down, quit being distracted, pay attention to what’s going on. If you don’t, it’s their life you’re putting in danger, not just yours."
Bus driver Shannon Wright

So, what are local districts are doing to keep our kids safe? We headed to Bowling Green for some insight.

“I don’t want to be that superintendent of the district that has a kid that’s been hit by a car because they didn’t follow the rules,” said BG school Superintendent Francis Scruci.

It’s illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus when the stop sign is extended and lights flashing, but it’s estimated that last year, more than 15 million drivers illegally passed buses. That’s 85,000 a day.

Toby Snow, who’s in charge of school transportation in Bowling Green, said he’s seen it happen.

“Last week we had seven, and those just seven that were reported because the buses now have cameras,” he said.

Bowling Green City Schools spent $300 dollars a piece to install cameras inside and outside of nearly all its buses to bust the red-light runners.

Snow showed us a shocking video that shows a student’s close call with a law-breaking driver.

“She gets the book bag, she’s heading down the stairs and the car just -- swoop,” Snow said.

Bus driver instructor Jim Elliott said he sees it every day.

“You just did something dangerous. you just came through my lights at 35 miles per hour because you didn’t want to wait for 10 seconds,” he said.

It’s gotten so bad that Ohio Sen. Randy Gardner recently gathered Wood County’s transportation directors together for a summit to crack down on drivers.

“Everything is on the table,” Gardner said. That’s including whether the state needs to help pay for cameras, how to educate drivers and how to drive up the cost on violators.

“At the very least, on a second offense, there need to be harsher penalties than currently exist in Ohio law,” Gardner said.

In a Michigan sting operation in 2016, one by one, police stopped more than a dozen drivers who blew past a stopped school bus. They posted the video to Facebook as a warning.

**Please share this video so the word gets out!** We REALLY want people to stop for school buses. We have tried to make this happen in multiple ways and have so far been unsuccessful in getting some people to cooperate. We hope this video makes a difference. The second video clip involving the school bus is not from our school system, it is from Graham, Washington. The children were not struck by the vehicle. Please... STOP FOR FLASHING RED LIGHTS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ROAD!

Posted by Westland Police Community Partnership on Thursday, September 15, 2016

One bus driver says if little kids can follow the rules, so can you.

“Slow down, quit being distracted, pay attention to what’s going on,” Shannon Wright said. "If you don’t, it’s their life you’re putting in danger, not just yours.

"I have a lot of kids on the bus, my kids know the rules. They have to stay back until i give them the signal that it’s clear.

Bus drivers we interviewed strongly that their first job is to protect children getting on and off the bus. They don’t have time to get license plate numbers to bust these drivers, so cameras on all buses would be really helpful.

Senator Gardner said there is a bill making its way through the house to stiffen penalties on the second offense, but he doesn’t expect it to go anywhere this year.

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