A third of Washington schools participated in a nationwide survey on school bus safety. The results showed that school bus drivers in Washington state counted 1,500 drivers who ignored the stop arm and those 1,500 violations happened in a single day.
Ladonna Werdal is responsible for the precious cargo the buses carry. When their feet hit the pavement, she is hypervigilant of other drivers.
“We need them to stop — there is not enough room for everybody to get by,” Werdal said.
Call it impatience or ignorance, but too many drivers are illegally passing school buses.
“I just saw it the other day, the bus driver actually having to stop the kids from crossing so a car could pass,” parent Melena Weese said.
Even more disturbing is that out of the 1,500 violations bus drivers reported, there were 32 instances of cars passing on the right side where kids get on and off the bus.
“It scares me tremendously,” Weese said.
“It leaves you in disbelief,” YMCA counselor Chancellor Yung said.
The rules of the road are: Flashing yellow lights mean slow down and when the stop arm swings out, drivers in each direction on a two-lane road must hit their brakes.
On three lanes or more, only people traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop.
“If they see the red sign out they need to stop because kids could be crossing in front, trying to get across the street,” Werdal said.
In 2011, the Washington Legislature gave school districts the power to install cameras on the stop arms to catch bad drivers. Highline and Bellevue school districts already have extra eyes. Seattle schools could be next.
“It’s a very big problem — kids have been hit before,” Werdal said.
The Seattle School District said they see anywhere between 300 to 500 violations each day.
Drivers found in violation of the law could receive a $394 fine, and in some cases face a reckless driving charge.