Some people don’t halt for buses

Published 10:34 am Friday, July 25, 2014

FRANKLIN—When some people in the area see a school bus stop arm come out, they keep going, said Lawrence Whiting, transportation director with the Franklin City Public Schools.

Whiting said it has happened to him when he has been out driving, and that his bus drivers report about one occurrence a week.

“On South Street, before I opened the door to let the kids out, two cars drove right on by,” he said.

“I always tell my bus drivers to not let the students off the bus until that car actually stops,” Whiting added. However, if nobody was in sight when the bus starts letting the children out, but they later get there and try to pass the bus it could become a dangerous situation.

“If one child gets hit by a car trying to get off the bus, it has happened too many times,” Whiting said. “That’s the way I see it. We are 100 percent concerned with making sure the kids get home safely.”

At the last school board meeting, Whiting brought a resolution before the Franklin City Public School Board, and the vote passed unanimously 6-0. The resolution ultimately requests that City Council enact an ordinance to create a civil penalty in the amount of $250 for a vehicle passing a stopped school bus with the use of stop arm camera.

The resolution is on City Council’s agenda for Monday. If approved, negotiations with Gatekeeper could begin. The remainder of the particulars including percentages of the fine, funding, who gets the money etc. is yet to be determined.

“With this, we are trying to change driver’s behavior, so they won’t drive by the buses,” Whiting said. “That’s a really critical time with safety — getting off the bus and walking across the street.”

Whiting said that as often as possible, they try to make sure that most of the stops send children to the right side of the road. Of course, that’s not effective if a car tries to pass the bus on the right side.

“There’s a small percentage of drivers that actually have passed busses on the right side,” Whiting said. “They will get up on the curb or go through the median to pass.”

When children do have to cross the road on the left, a bus driver will watch and wave the child to go when it is safe.

Whiting said if a bus has its stop arm out, it is because it is about to start letting children out or because the children are already getting out.

“It is important to stop for a bus,” he said. “Not only is it the law, but it is important to help keep our kids safe. That’s the reason why we are doing this.”

Bus drivers do try to get information of people passing the buses, including writing down information. But that can be tough to do in some moments when drivers are trying to keep the children safe. And if you do jot down a license plate, sometimes it’s tough to prove just who was driving the vehicle.

“It is sort of the bus driver’s word versus whoever owns the car, who we hope was driving it,” Whiting said. “With a camera system, it gives a clear picture of who is driving it. There’s a clear video of it happening.”

Whiting said his bus drivers try to take other vehicles into consideration.

“We try to minimize the stops, and try not to make any stop too long,” he said. “And we try to work with the public, too. If a bus driver knows that they are going to have five stops on this road, they’ll wave a car to come around when it is safe to do so.”

The details on installing the cameras onto the buses have not yet been worked out, but Whiting had previously talked to the board about potentially using a company called Gatekeeper Systems.

One financing option is that the company would keep a percentage of the $250 fine.