Motorists are ignoring the stop sign arms on school buses and school districts are taking the matter into their own hands.
Using 16 external cameras installed on a portion of their bus fleet in November of last year, Hardin County Schools has been recording motorists who bypass a school bus while the buses have stop arms out.
Chris Corder, HCS transportation director, then reviews the video footage, writes down the license plate of the offending motorists and sends them to Hardin County Attorney Jenny Oldham, who then sends a summons to the offender. So far, 20 summons have been issued, Corder said.
The offenses regularly happen.
HCS transportation safety coordinator David Dunaway said on average there are 22 offenses a day.
“I’ve seen it high as 80 for a week,” Corder said.
He also noted there have been more than 1,000 offenders since the beginning of the school year in August.
According to state law, when a school bus’ stop arm is displayed, all traffic must be stopped except for vehicles traveling the opposite direction on a four-lane highway.
Punishment for ignoring a stop arm on a school bus is a fine of $100 to $300 or imprisonment from 30 to 60 days. Also, six points could be assessed to the person’s driving record, if convicted. A second violation within a three-year period is a fine of $300 to $500 or jail time of 60 days up to six months.
The offenders are all over the county, Corder said.
The Elizabethtown Independent Schools also has experienced the same issue, said Steve Smallwood, assistant superintendent for student services and support for the school district.
“It’s been an almost weekly occurrence where we at least have two to three issues where cars are bypassing our stop arm and it’s creating a safety issue for our students,” he said.
Smallwood said the district has not filed any reports and doesn’t have any cameras on the bus’ stop arms. Smallwood said the district is exploring the idea of equipping the buses with stop-arm cameras. The district also is working with the Elizabethtown Police Department to send officers and cruisers to bus stops, but officers are not always available, he said.
“We need the help from our community,” Smallwood said, adding motorists should be more aware of their surroundings.
Dunaway said there could be many reasons why motorists ignore the bus arms.
“People have road rage, they’re in a hurry,” he said. “The biggest problem I’m seeing is people on cell phones.”
No one has been injured in either school district yet, but last school year, a Hardin County student in Radcliff nearly was hit by a motorist ignoring a stop arm.
“My heart went up in my throat,” said Dunaway, a former bus driver.
A James T. Alton Middle School student also was struck in January 2018 as she crossed Hill Street in Radcliff to board a school bus. In Indiana, three siblings were killed in October 2018 after police said a motorist, Alyssa Shepherd, ignored a school bus stop arm.