What part of STOP don’t they understand?
Russell Richardson of Corydon drives a schoolbus for the South Harrison Community School Corp., and he sees something all too often that scares him to death: Adults who drive around his bus while kids are getting off the bus, with the STOP arm out and red lights flashing.
Last year, Richardson, 54, saw this happen 51 times, usually in Corydon. Sam Day, coordinator of transportation for South Harrison, said there were 100 violations last year in Corydon alone. One driver told this newspaper last year that she sees it happen three or four times a week, and occasionally gets screamed at for being “in the way.”
It gets worse every year, Richardson said. He documents each case in a notebook. He remembers a convertible with Colorado plates went around his bus on the right in Corydon, and a group of students crossing the street had to scatter to avoid getting run down.
During the last week of school last year, Richardson had given ample warning to cars behind and in front of him on North Capitol Avenue that he was about to stop at the intersection with Elliot Avenue — one of the worst in town. Richardson had stopped his bus, the stop arm went out, the door opened, the bus headlights were blinking off and on, and the red lights on the bus were flashing. One car in front of Richardson’s bus, going the other direction, stopped, as required by law, but then three other cars passed that car on the right. Fortunately, several children got off Richardson’s bus onto the sidewalk to his right. Had they walked in front of the bus to get to the other side of the street, it might have been ugly.
Some people just don’t pay attention. Or don’t care. Or they’re braindead.
When there’s an incident, bus drivers are on the spot. They’re trying to keep an eye on their students getting off the bus while at the same time trying to get an accurate description of the lawbreaker. Each time someone violates the stop arm law, Richardson and other bus drivers are expected to fill out an Indiana State Police Stop Arm Violation Form. They describe the driver as best they can, the make, year and color of the vehicle, license number, and where the incident happened.
The form is given to the school corporation which faxes it to the state police. A trooper visits that driver, and often a citation or ticket is given.
To drive around a schoolbus with its stop arm out and red lights on is serious stuff: There is a maximum fine of $10,000, and you could lose your license for a year.
Schoolbus drivers must give motorists in both directions 400 to 800 feet of warning with yellow caution lights that they’re about to stop. When the driver stops the bus, the door opens, the red lights go on. More buses are being equipped with headlights that flash on and off, like police car lights.
Bus drivers watch the kids get off (they usually count them) or pass in front to get to the other side of the street. Kids are not allowed to go behind the bus.
Kids who wait for buses must be at least 15 feet away from the stopping point.
Last year Richardson got so upset with the frequent violations that he asked the Corydon Police Dept. to help spot violators. They did, sometimes in unmarked cars. Sometimes they tracked his entire four-mile route. Several people got tickets. The Indiana State Police do this, too.
Schoolbuses started rolling yesterday, hauling about 5,000 students throughout the county. Give the drivers and their precious cargo a break. Motorists should know they have to stop their car for a stopped schoolbus. It’s the law. It’s a no-brainer. It should be automatic.