Reckless! Drivers blowing past stopped school buses
LYNCHBURG, Va (WSET) -- School bus ridership is huge.
The American School Bus Council estimates 480,000 school buses carry 25 million children each day, making the school bus industry the largest form of mass transit in the United States.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is quick to point out that on average, every year, six school-age children die in school bus crashes as passengers while more than 42,000 people are killed in traffic crashes on U.S. roads.
In Virginia in 2015, there were 582 school bus crashes, 60 drivers and 338 passengers were injured, and seven people were injured getting on or off a school bus.
One big problem is cars not stopping for a bus even though the stop sign and lights are flashing.
An investigation concluded that our communities have a way to keep children safer and go after those drivers who break the law, but don't.
It's something every parent with a child riding a school bus wants to know too.
"The speed limit here is 35, we have a lot of people who go 45 to 50," said Susan Neiss whose children ride Lynchburg City School buses.
Her husband is appalled about why more isn't being done to crackdown on school bus runners.
"We have both like chased people down and gotten license plate numbers," Robert Neiss, Susan's husband added.
What's happening on the roads is nothing new to school bus drivers because they said they see lawbreakers all the time.
"You know I’ve had motorists run my lights before," said Jaunita Jones a longtime LCS bus driver. "I mean there’s really nothing you can do. You blow your horn to alert them and the child."
The investigation found that since 2012, Lynchburg Police ticketed only 69 drivers for failing to stop for school buses.
"It's a very large yellow bus, usually says school bus and has its lights on."said Sgt. Ronnie Sitler with the Lynchburg Police Department. "When the red lights come on just stop. It's not that hard."
While cops do bust folks, it's nearly impossible for them to catch everyone, so that's where cameras on the buses come in.
All Lynchburg City School buses have them.
Dozens of video clips from a variety of buses show lawbreakers; showing driver after driver going by school buses on different days letting kids on and off.
And after three days on the streets in Lynchburg, drivers, including bus drivers, passed stopped school buses with its flashing lights and stop sign arm out.
"When vehicles pass like that it runs into the danger of hitting one of our students," said Jason Ferguson the Transportation Director for LCS. "So we take that very seriously."
But, none locally take advantage of a state law that was revised last year that can help them crack down on school bus runners.
The law gives communities the ability to create an ordinance allowing school systems to send the owner of the car captured on camera breaking the law a ticket in the mail.
According to representatives with Lynchburg, Danville, Roanoke, and other school systems, none have created an ordinance to ticket by mail.
In Lynchburg, Mayor Joan Foster knew about the law, but indicated enacting such a bill wouldn't be on the agenda anytime soon.
"As a community it might be something that we need to look at," she said.
Communities even have the law on their side to help keep them safer, but only if leaders choose to act.
"A couple of the drivers have t-shirts and sweatshirts that say it’s big, it’s yellow, it’s red lights flashing. What don’t you see?," said Linda Snead, an LCS school bus driver.
Creating a law that allows school districts to cite drivers is really only the first step.
Some school districts said they haven't figured out the best way to put a system into place to mail the tickets.
They said it would take extra bodies from police departments or another agency and that the costs for personnel and to install cameras on buses that don't have them are not known.
As far as punishment, school bus runners face a $250 fine or more and can have 6 points added to their driving records.