"We MUST do better."
That’s the message the Indiana Department of Education is pushing after a survey showed more than 2,500 drivers statewide illegally passed school buses with their stop arms out.
Those illegal passes were all recorded in just one day, on April 23.
Kids are in class for 180 days, which means buses could be passed hundreds of thousands of times from September to June.
Educators all over the state say they’re working to bring those numbers down -- but drivers need to help.
Tony Gianesi, Chief Operating Officer for Elkhart Community Schools, has one thing to say to the 54 drivers who ignored Elkhart school bus stop arms earlier this spring:
“It’s 54 too many. We should not have any violations. Our public really needs to understand how important safety of our students is and passing buses is just unacceptable.”
It’s unacceptable, because children just trying to get on or off a bus could be hit.
“If they’re hit they can certainly be killed, and no one wants to lose a student in anyway shape or form, particularly on the negligence of someone from the public," said Gianesi.
For three children in Fulton County in October, that nightmare became a reality. They were hit and killed by a truck after police say the driver failed to obey their school bus’s stop arm.
“The incident that happened last year has helped to push this into the spotlight,” said Gianesi.
Adam Baker, press secretary for the Indiana Department of Education, says that spotlight has led to laws like MAX Strong. That law creates stronger penalties for people who illegally pass stopped buses.
But this recent survey helped get it passed.
“That data also helped influence the legislators and helped provide them with a good picture of what’s going on in the state as well,” said Baker.
Gianesi says Elkhart is looking to add stop arm cameras to its fleet. But the district is still hashing out details with local law enforcement.
“That they would actually enforce it and then prosecute. That’s been a question, many places whether or not local law-enforcement will enforce the laws on a video,” said Gianesi.
Until that question is answered, please be careful.
“The community needs to understand the importance of the flashing lights and the stop arms. When they’re out they need to stop,” said Gianesi.
Baker says the state uses this survey data to help train new bus drivers and plan district bus routes. But he emphasized too, that drivers need to be careful and pay attention.
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