School safety measures passed after crash at school bus stop in Rochester

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LEBANON, Ind. – Last October, three children were hit and killed at their bus stop in Rochester. The trial began Tuesday for the woman who was behind the wheel.

Alyssa Shepherd, 24, faces three felony counts of reckless homicide and a misdemeanor charge of passing a school bus causing injury. She could spend more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

Their deaths spurred lawmakers in action.

Senate Bill 2 laid out new measures. The law says a school bus driver cannot load or unload a child at a location that requires the student to cross a roadway unless no other safe alternatives are available. It also allows schools to buy, install and operate school bus stop-arm cameras.

A court can also suspend a person’s driving privileges if he or she disobeys the stop arm.

We expect everyone to make it home safe. That is why even before the tragedy in Rochester, Lebanon Community Schools acted to change things on its buses.

“The devastation of it could be anyone at any time,” said Becky Nichols, Director of Transportation for Lebanon Community Schools

All 50 buses now have stop-arm cameras. The equipment cost roughly $40,000. The district said it is already making people slow down.

“Our numbers have declined so we are not having near as many violations this year,” she said.

Deputy Marc Mitalski works for the Boone County Sheriff’s Office. He is also a school resource officer in Zionsville. He hopes to see more school districts install cameras on their buses.

“We feel that the stop arm cameras that the Lebanon Community School police utilize is a great asset to school corporations in finding the violators and stopping this,” said Deputy Mitalski.

Danville and Brown County Schools are two districts that made changes to their bus routes. They wanted to make sure more students were picked up and dropped off on the “door side” so they did not have to cross busy roads.

Monroe County Community School Corporation also re-evaluated all its bus routes. The transportation department said 80-90% of all the stops are “door side” or on less-traveled roads.

In Boone County, the sheriff’s office and other police departments were awarded about $21,000 to fund extra patrols at school bus stops and in school zones.

So far, officers have written at least 25 citations for stop-arm violations.

“It gave us the opportunity to put officers on it to enforce it,” said Mitalski.

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