School bus stop danger: Drivers caught ignoring laws that keep kids safe

February 24, 2014 (CHICAGO)

It's a deadly concern. Across metro Chicago every day, drivers are putting children at risk by passing stopped school buses at bus stops. Some bus drivers are fighting back with technology to catch violators in the act.

Every day on Route 45 in northwest suburban Vernon Hills, it's a rush. But as the cars whiz by, local parents say drivers blow right past stopped school buses.

"They just don't stop, kids are there, and we want them to be safe. We want everybody to be safe, we don't want anybody to get hurt," said Smita Jaisalmeria, Vernon Hills mom.

I-Team cameras caught others in the act right here in Vernon Hills. The bus pulls up and deploys the stop arm as one driver squeezes by. Then, not one, but two more drivers illegally cruise right by the stopped bus. Look at it again. The bus stops, sign out on the other side, lights flashing, and cars run through. The driver let them know.

Stop-arm violations are a problem across Chicagoland. On Route 59 in Naperville, I-Team cameras catch this driver passing the bus without stopping, just before children get off.

After a nationwide driver survey in 2013, school bus experts estimate that more than 15 million drivers pass stopped buses every school year. And the consequences can be deadly: 28 children have been hit and killed by drivers passing buses nationwide since 2008.

"Unfortunately, it takes an incident before people act," said Bob LeBlevec, Gatekeeper Systems.

Now, school bus companies and school districts are turning to technology to try to halt stop arm violations. Illinois School Bus Company in the south suburbs is installing these cameras on the sides of school buses. When the bus stops and deploys the stop arm, that turns on a surveillance video-- nabbing drivers using infrared to pick up plate images -- and even recording the date time and GPS location of the violation.

In video taken across the south suburbs, watch as these drivers zoom past the stopped bus. This driver runs through the stop sign, and just moments later, students get off.

"Kids will continue to die. If something's not done, if the behavior of drivers is not changed, children will continue to die across North America, absolutely, every day there is a problem with this, every day," said LeBlevec.

"They're just not stopping, and think of the consequences. I mean you have little kids getting off these buses and it's scary," said Deborah Wicklander, Illinois School Bus Company.

At west suburban Burlington's Central School District 301, officials catch and turn in several dozen stop-arm violators a year, and say drivers just need to slow down.

"I don't know what goes through their mind to think that they should get around a school bus, I don't understand that thinking...if that was your child, would you think twice before you sped around that? Maybe it's your grandchild, you don't know what's around that corner, if that stop arm is out, it means stop," said Rusty Lemcke, transportation director, Central School District 301.

A new law that went into effect this year makes it easier for school districts to pay for the installation of cameras on school buses, so you may see this technology throughout your neighborhood soon.

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