School buses caught on camera running red lights, speeding in Chicago

ABC7 I-Team Investigation

ByChuck Goudie and Ross Weidner via WLS logo
Friday, May 8, 2015
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The ABC7 I-Team uncovered hundreds of school bus safety violations, with nearly 200 buses running red lights and speeding on Chicago's streets.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC7 I-Team uncovered hundreds of school bus safety violations, with nearly 200 buses running red lights and speeding on Chicago's streets.

School buses carrying our most precious cargo are caught on video tearing through intersections, risking young lives and endangering other drivers. They're busted by traffic cameras for breaking the law and ticketed, but an I-Team investigation finds that the abuse rolls on and 80 percent of all these school bus tickets go unpaid.

"That's not good, that's not safe at all," said Rholanda Gray, a Chicago mother.

The I-Team took violation video from the corner of Madison and Laramie on the city's West Side. In the past year, six school bus red light tickets were issued at this intersection alone.

City cameras caught some dangerous near misses; twice buses were zooming by with people standing in the crosswalk.

In the video, the light turns red and the bus rolls right through, turning right on red with a baby stroller at the corner and people ready to cross.

"That's bad! You gotta pay attention when you're driving. They're supposed to be safe!" said Britanny Bernard, a Chicago mother.

Madison and Laramie is one of the top five school bus red light violation intersections uncovered by the I-Team.

City cameras caught seven buses running reds in both 5700-block of South Cornell by the Museum of Science and Industry and at 31st and Martin Luther King Drive in Bronzeville.

Also racking up six violations were 75th and State and at Hollywood and Sheridan near Lake Shore Drive in Uptown.

The I-Team discovered the nearly 200 red light violations by school bus drivers in city records dating from January 2014 until February of this year provided under a Freedom of Information Act request.

"You would think that any kind of bus would have respect for the people inside, and you know you want to keep them safe," said Katie Aymar, a Chicago resident.

Headquartered on the West Side, R & D Bus Company has by far the most violations caught on camera since 2014.

R & D buses were caught blowing through red lights 47 times, and they've received 89 speeding violations.

Their 136 violations make up 40 percent of all of the school bus tickets issued citywide since January of 2014 and despite all of their tickets piling up, neither the company nor their drivers have paid any of them.

So the I-Team went looking for answers.

ABC7's Chuck Goudie: "What kind of a problem do you have here with red light tickets, do you get many of them?"

Alex Mendez, R & D Bus Co. maintenance: "Quite a few."

Goudie: "Would it surprise you to know that this company has more tickets than any other school bus company in the city?"

Mendez: "No, probably not."

Top R & D bus company officials refused to comment for this report or provide ticketed drivers to talk.

In all, citywide since January 2014, school buses have racked up 169 red light violations. Speeding is an even bigger problem with 178 violations.

That's 347 red light running or speeding school buses caught on camera since January of 2014.

"Kids, they're precious cargo," said Maleeha Mubashiruddin, a Chicago mother.

By the North Side's busy Warren Park, a speed camera tops all others in the city with 26 speeding tickets for school buses.

"We live close by and I see school buses going by pretty fast!" said Dulce Hatcher, a Chicago mother.

Two cameras a block apart in Marquette Park caught 23 buses speeding by, 17 of them at more than 11 miles over the speed limit.

And in Mount Greenwood on the far South Side, a bus sped by at more than 11 miles over the speed limit, right past a little girl riding her bike.

"Oh God! I think that driver needs to go to driving school again," said Mary Hall, a Chicago resident.

Only one bus company responded to I-Team questions concerning red light and speeding camera violations. Warrenville-based Durham School Services, that received only one ticket in Chicago according to the data we examined, provided this statement: "As our top priority is the safety of the students we transport, the importance of complying with traffic laws is a key part of our training program for drivers. We therefore take any and all traffic violations very seriously. Should a traffic violation involving one of our drivers be brought to our attention, we will fully investigate the incident and take appropriate disciplinary action as well as provide retraining for the employee."

The other two top ticketed companies, AM Bus and Illinois Student Transportation, never answered the I-Team's requests for comment. Only one minor offender said her bus company would look into the problems we've exposed.

The violating bus companies we've shown you don't just carry Chicago Public Schools students. Some transport for Catholic schools and suburban districts as well.

In a statement, Chicago Public Schools officials said: "Nothing is more important than the safety of our students, and we take great steps to ensure every student utilizing CPS transportation is safe and secure. The District thoroughly monitors driver performance, and we do not hesitate to terminate vendor relationships or impose driver bans if our high safety standards are not met."