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Danger increases at school bus stops

The school bus driver had stopped her vehicle to pick up two passengers along S.R. 135 when an oncoming vehicle, which had been stopped, pulled over in front of the bus.
“I knew what he was doing,” said Beverly Keehn, who has driven a school bus 20 years.
Keehn saw the approaching vehicle about the same time that the other driver saw it in his rear-view mirror. They both knew the oncoming driver was not going to stop even though the school bus had its emergency lights activated and its stop arm extended.
“The two little girls (waiting to get on the bus) were on their toes,” Keehn said. They had stayed back away from the highway, just as they had been instructed by Keehn and probably their mother, who was watching this particular morning from the front door of their home.
After the children were safely on the bus, the driver of the other vehicle — a concerned parent, Keehn said — who had acted quickly to help prevent a possible tragedy, drove after the vehicle that failed to stop for the bus. He caught up with the vehicle and obtained the license plate information, which was passed on to police. Keehn said the parent also read the violator the riot act.
“I thanked him for that,” Keehn said.
Fortunately, this situation had a happy ending. Persons involved with school bus safety say incidents like this one happen too frequently.
Sam Day, transportation director for the South Harrison Community School Corp., said one bus driver has reported 24 stop-arm violations since school started mid-August.
“It seems like a higher rate than we’ve had in the past,” said Day. “Twenty-five percent of them involve vehicles that are going the same direction as the bus. If they have room, they just go around the bus,” regardless that it may be loading or unloading children.
“It’s dangerous,” he said.
Most of the violations occur at four intersections: South Capitol Avenue and Poplar Street; Water and Poplar streets; North Capitol and Elliott Street, and S.R. 337 and Ridley Street.
“It’s mostly in the afternoons,” Day said.
Day said Corydon Chief Marshal James Kendall — and former Chief Richard Yetter before him — has provided extra patrol when possible.
“It’s really dangerous for the kids getting on or off the bus,” Kendall said.
The Corydon Police Dept., as well as others, will use license plate information obtained by the bus drivers to cite violators of the stop arms.
ISP Trooper Troy Boyd, who is responsible for bus inspections in a six-county area including Harrison, said he gets so many notices of violations that he turns them over to the troopers who work daily in the counties.
Ed Pitman, transportation director for the North Harrison Community School Corp., said about 75 percent of the violators they report to police are issued citations.
Now in his 10th year as transportation director, Pitman said motorists disregard the stop arms on routes “on S.R. 135 and 64 more than any place else. We get very few on back roads.”
Keehn, just one of about 100 bus drivers in Harrison County, said she has people pass her illegally “three to four times a week.”
She has had “infuriated” drivers make obscene gestures at her and yell at her “to get out of the road,” she said, adding that most of the violators are “older people” rather than students.
“Most of the violators know better,” Boyd said. “It’s just a busy world.”
Day praised the bus drivers.
“I think the drivers are doing a great job making sure motorists are stopped before they let kids off the bus,” he said. “We’re just trying to get the awareness out there that people who pass school buses illegally are creating a dangerous situation.”