By Lucas Lord
When the amber lights begin to flash and a large flashing red stop sign extends from the yellow school buses, drivers on both sides of the road are supposed to stop. Recently, they haven’t been.
“You know, with all the flashing lights, we are big and yellow for a reason,” Laura Schroder, safety training supervisor and former driver for Durham Bus Services said last week. “We got the amber lights, what we call our amber eight-ways. Theystart flashing to indicate we are about to slow down.
“When we stop, we open up our doors, our stop sign comes out and people are supposed to stop, but of course they don’t. They try to fly on by, but you never know if there are kids who have to cross the street.”
Schroder said since kids are unpredictable, getting distracted while crossing the road poses a significant risk.
“We tell (our drivers) to look for those drivers that aren’t slowing down and we always preach to them to try to have a conversation with the kids that you do not cross the street until the driver gives the OK signal,” Schroder said. “A couple of years ago, we had a driver dropping off out on 7 Highway and he was stopping at that first driveway. He had his ambers on, he had his reds on and he opened the door and hit the drive cam button because a driver actually passed him on the right-hand side and almost hit the kids as they were unloading.”
After that, Schroder said they reevaluated their drop off procedure across a number of busy routes. She explained that without help from law enforcement, she wasn’t very hopeful that “sign runners” would stop anytime soon.
“Before (the police) needed a description of the driver, a description of the car, their license plate number and the approximate time and place,” she said. “A lot of times it happens so quickly that we are just making sure the kids aren’t getting hit that we don’t get all that information.”
While the district’s buses don’t have dash cameras, they do have driver cameras that monitor the driver and their blind spots.
Schroder said, “I actually had one time where I had it all, I even had it on video with the drive cam, but the police would still not go out and ticket them. We haven’t had much help.”
With the Stop Sign Runners public-service material being disseminated through the community, Schroder said she hopes something will change before it is too late.
“Luckily, we haven’t had a kid hit here but I am afraid that once one kid is hit, they’ll be like, ‘oh, we need to step this up,’ no, I don’t want to do that, I want to step it up before that happens,” she said. “I don’t want a kid’s life lost.”
Harrisonville Police Chief John Hofer said safety around school buses in a majority priority.
“Because you are dealing with the safety of young children it is obviously a priority. Year after year we hear stories of crashes. School bus violations are something we make a priority throughout the year, but especially in the fall when school starts,” Hofer said.