I-Team Investigates Drivers ‘Ignoring the Signs’
By Charlotte Huffman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Parents depend on school buses every day to get their children to school safely but the CBS3 I-Team is exposing the danger children face while getting on and off the bus every day.
In January, a Voorhees, NJ teen was hit and critically injured by a driver who police say illegally passed the boy’s school bus on Cooper Road.
Matt Koch was boarding the same bus that morning and watched the accident happen just feet from him.
“I just saw (the victim) go up and over the car. It’s terrible just to wake up at 6:30 in the morning to get a phone call or someone knocking on your door saying that your son has been hit by a car,” said Koch.
By law, drivers must begin slowing down when a school bus flashes its’ yellow lights because as soon as the red lights flash and the stop arm is deployed, drivers in both directions need to be stopped. The only exception is if there is a median separating traffic. In that case, only traffic on the same side as the school bus must stop.
The problem is common.
According to a survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, bus drivers across the U.S. reported more 85,000 vehicles illegally passed stopped school buses in a single day.
CBS3 saw the danger unfold first hand. The I-Team’s cameras caught more than a dozen violators breaking the law while riding a Gloucester Township school bus undercover.
“I’m big. I’m yellow. How can you not see me?” said Gloucester Township school bus driver, Gail Grandino.
Grandino has been driving school buses for nearly 20 years and says she is fed up with motorists who regularly disregard the law.
“People don’t understand they run my school lights, they could hit a kid and it could be your kid.”
Another Gloucester Township bus driver reiterated Grandino’s frustration.
“I have this woman who is constant. She will go right through my lights. There’s been a time she jumped the curb on me. She’s going to kill one of my kids.”
That’s exactly what parents like Beth Giordano are afraid of.
“It is a time bomb. We are waiting for an accident to happen,” said Giordano.
The Huntingdon Valley mom contacted the CBS3 I-Team because she was fed up with drivers breaking the law at her children’s bus stop.
The I-Team did video surveillance at the bus stop on County Line Road and day after day, caught motorists driving past the stopped school bus as children boarded, despite the bus’ flashing lights.
“Someday it is going to be your children standing out there or your grandchildren,” said Giordano.
While the frequency of violations may be high, the number of violators who are prosecuted is low.
Gloucester Township Police Department officials tell the I-Team it is rare that police are assigned to monitor school bus stops and there are not enough resources to do so regularly.
Without police witnessing the violation, in order to prosecute violators in court a bus driver must be able to identify the vehicle, license plate and the person behind the wheel.
Bus drivers say that is very difficult to do.
“I’ve got a bus load of kids and I’m focusing on getting them on the bus safely,” said Grandino.
There is pending legislation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to mount traffic cameras on the stop arms of school buses with the goal of prosecuting drivers who illegally pass.