Parents, Bus Drivers Come Together to Avert Tragedies

By Mizejewski, Gerald | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 31, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Parents, Bus Drivers Come Together to Avert Tragedies


Mizejewski, Gerald, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Since the start of the school year, 23 motorists have ignored the stop arm and flashing lights on the Montgomery County school bus that stops at Route 28 and Turkey Foot Road.

Laura Bivans knows because she's out there every morning with her daughter, keeping a log and sometimes even videotaping the offenders who speed past.

"It's very frustrating to stand out there and see people not caring about children," said Mrs. Bivans, who started keeping track after her daughter had a near-miss. "They just don't care."

And that's just one student at one stop in one county. While the problem isn't new, there is growing concern among suburban educators that preoccupied, aggressive drivers and the modern, hurry-up mentality are putting students at risk across the region.

"We must control this situation before a student is seriously injured or killed," said David Miller, associate superintendent for school services in Prince William County.

"My biggest fear is that I won't be able to retire before I'm called to an accident where a child's been hit by a car," said John Matthews, assistant director of transportation at Montgomery County schools.

Nationwide, 22 children died in school-bus loading and unloading zones during the 1999-2000 school year, though none in the D.C. area, according to a survey by the Kansas State Department of Education. The national figure was 18 the previous school year and 10 the year before that.

Last week, the Prince William school system joined several others in the area that instruct their bus drivers to record for police the license-plate numbers of bus-stop lawbreakers.

By law, offenders in Prince William can be charged with reckless driving and fined $250.

However, most of these efforts are all bark and no bite.

Montgomery County authorities, for instance, just mail warning letters to the address listed for the license-plate number. According to Maryland law, police are to send a warning to the car's owner if the offender cannot be identified by the bus driver.

In the case of Prince William County, police Sgt. Kim Chinn said a bus driver would have to identify a motorist and plate number and then go before a magistrate. Most bus drivers will not go to the trouble, can't identify the offending motorist or don't have the time.

In Delaware, a long-standing law makes it easier for police and bus drivers, said Ted Tull, administrative director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.

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