INDIANAPOLIS — It is the last week of school for many school districts across Central Indiana. The first day of school was about nine months ago for most Indiana students and you would think by now, drivers would know that when they see a school bus with flashing red lights they should stop. But a recent survey shows that’s not the case. Newly released from the Indiana Department of Education shows Indiana bus drivers counted 2,091 vehicles ignoring their flashing red lights and breaking the law in a single day.
“The lights on a school bus are similar to a stop light. When the yellow lights come on, that means the read will soon follow. Our drivers are trained to activate those lights with plenty of notice,” said Katrina Falk, Regional Director for the School Transportation Association of Indiana.
On April 25th thousands of Indiana school bus drivers participated in the state’s annual stop arm violation survey. It’s when bus drivers count and then report the number of vehicles that drive around them or pass them when they are stopped with their red lights flashing and loading or unloading students. Of The 2,091 drivers that didn’t stop, 915 vehicles didn’t stop in the morning and 1,133 drivers didn’t stop that afternoon.
Falk says sitting on a bus with a load of kids as another vehicle speeds toward you is terrifying.
“It’s unimaginable. It’s one of every school bus driver’s worst fears. I think we have all almost had that near-miss because of either a distracted driver or someone who just didn’t care. I’ve had drivers sail through my stop arm on both sides of the bus. They’ve come up in a ditch on the right side of the bus,” Falk said.
One recent incident was caught on camera when a semi-truck blew by an Eastern Shelby County School Bus. That’s where Falk is the Director of Transportation. She says it doesn’t matter how many flashing lights you put on a school bus. It seems some drivers ignore it and choose not to stop.
“I think we’ve proven multiple times over that you just can’t make school buses visible enough. Like you said, on all of our buses we order LED lights, strobing LED lights on the stop arms, dual stop arms, full reflective tape package and everything that we can possibly get… just to get the attention of the motorists on the road and nothing,” Falk said.
Under Indiana Law, it is a Class A misdemeanor if you are convicted for not stopping for a school bus loading or unloading passengers with its red lights flashing. It is a felony if another person is injured or killed in the process.
Falk says avoiding tragedy is simple. “When you see flashing yellow lights, and I don’t care if its on a tractor, a trash truck or a school bus, the reaction should be slow down! You know, caution something is slow moving, slowing down, there’s something happening ahead, and instead people take that as a challenge.”