Many Drivers Putting Students In Danger - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Many Drivers Putting Students In Danger

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BOZEMAN -

The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services annual survey said 85,279 drivers illegally passed a school bus while picking up or dropping off students in 29 states, including Montana, last year.

It is a trend many school bus drivers are seeing across the state.

"For whatever reason, we have our share of motorists that run through the red light," said Robert Evans, Belgrade Public Schools transportation director.

"We seem to have a problem on some major streets where people just totally disregard the bus and it is scary," said Stacy Roberts, First Student's Bozeman manager.

It is scary because Roberts says getting on and off the bus is the most dangerous place for a child, and many drivers aren't stopping for the bus.

Parents are concerned too.

"It is not only harmful for the children, but it is harmful for everybody," said Mirandee Drube, Belgrade Middle School parent. "I'm in the concern of my own children and everybody else on that bus."

Montana's law, like many states, requires drivers to prepare to stop when they see the yellow warning lights flashing on the school bus and stop when the red lights flash and the stop sign is extended.

ABC FOX Montana stood at a bus stop along Jackrabbit Lane January 17 and saw three people pass the bus while it was picking up Belgrade Middle School students. The bus driver, Sandra Joubert, said she has people run her stop arm several times a week at different stops on her route.

"Jackrabbit is terrible," said Joubert. "It's pretty constant on Jackrabbit. And for most of the drivers that drive Jackrabbit, they have the same problem."

She also has people pass her at stops on Valley Center Road and in the Valley Grove subdivision, which makes up most of her route.

It isn't a problem just in Belgrade. Roberts said they have two or three drivers a day saying they had someone run their stop arm. First Student driver Kelley Cabrera said she has people not stop for her bus almost daily.

"More times than not I have about six people who run my reds during the day, in the morning," said Cabrera. "I generally have more in the afternoon."

There are consequences for not stopping for a school bus while it is picking up and dropping off students.

The Bozeman Police Department issued 43 citations last year to people who didn't stop for school buses, up significantly from eight in 2011.

Montana Highway patrol issued 35 citations statewide in 2013, up from 22 in 2012.

Roberts said they report the best they can, turning in about six drivers a week to the police, but they can't always get what they need.

"The police work really well with us and going and issuing citations when we are able to get license plates and descriptions, but that happens too infrequent unfortunately," said Roberts.

Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Patrick McLaughlin said they would issue more citations when they get everything they need, but they run into problems.

"Sometimes we're not getting a good license plate," said McLaughlin. "Sometimes the license plate doesn't back to the description of the vehicle, or when our officers go and check the area, they aren't finding the vehicle."

McLaughlin said they have special patrols to catch people who are not stopping at bus stops.

"We'll put a trooper on the bus and a trooper in the unmarked car and if something that happens, the trooper on the bus will actually call ahead," said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin said they haven't done that for a few years because they haven't had the manpower, but after seeing our video of three cars passing the school bus, he plans to get that program going again.

Montana law doesn't require a police officer to witness the violation, but if someone is able to get your license plate number, vehicle description and your description if you pass a school bus, you can face a fine up to $500, plus two points on your license.

 

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