GISD focuses on bus safety

April 9, 2014

The wheels on the bus may go ’round and ’round, but when they stop, you’d better, too.

Before long, Granbury ISD school buses could be equipped with stop arm cameras so that citations can be mailed to those who endanger children by passing stopped school buses.

The fines attached to those citations are steep.

“It’s brand new technology,” said GISD Transportation Director Terry Slemmons, who has been in contact with two camera companies.

The Texas Transportation Code requires drivers traveling in either direction to stop when a school bus has stopped to pick up or drop off children. Buses have flashing lights and stop arms that let motorists know to stop.

Fines for violators range from $500 to $1,250. Lead-footed drivers who are cited two or more times for passing a stopped school bus can be fined up to $2,000 and have their driver’s license suspended for up to six months.

School Superintendent Jim Largent said he has grown more concerned after a couple of recent school bus-related incidents left one woman dead and a boy injured.

Marcille Manley Booth, 87, died on April 1, two weeks after she was airlifted from Acton Highway. Her vehicle was struck by an 18-year-old pickup driver who was going around a school bus that was about to make a left-hand turn.

The results of the accident investigation will be presented to the grand jury, according to Deputy Chief Alan Hines of the Granbury Police Department.

On March 21, an 8-year-old boy in Indian Harbor was struck by a car when he ran across the street toward his school bus. A review of the bus video showed that the bus was stopped with its lights flashing, door open and stop signs deployed.

The boy was released from the hospital later that day with facial stitches, scrapes and bruises.

Bus driver Gary Bennett said he routinely sees drivers violate the law by driving past his stopped bus.

This is Bennett’s second year to drive Bus 34 for GISD. His route is on Highway 51 toward Weatherford.

“There are those that don’t believe the rules apply to them,” he said Monday. “And there are those in la-la land who are texting or whatever else.”

Largent said that “big, giant, yellow buses” shouldn’t be difficult to spot.

“They’re big and yellow and they have lights flashing for a reason,” he said.

Last year, school bus drivers in 29 states participated in a one-day survey for the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS).

The more than 108,000 school bus drivers who participated in the survey reported that 85,279 vehicles passed their buses illegally.

The sample results indicate that over the course of a 180-day school year, more than 15 million violations occur, according to the NASDPTS.

Brian Caruthers, GISD’s driver manager, said that, in Texas alone, a one-day survey showed that 9,400 motorists passed school buses that had their lights flashing and stop signs deployed.

“In Granbury that one day, we had 21 passers,” he said.

Slemmons said that if GISD implements stop-arm cameras through one particular company he has researched, proceeds would be split between the Department of Public Safety and the school district.

Said Caruthers: “I really don’t think people are paying attention and understanding how important it is to stop when a school bus is loading and unloading.

“Folks need to understand that we’re transporting precious cargo.”

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