315 school bus

This still is taken from a school bus camera and shows a car narrowly miss a student getting off a Carthage ISD school bus earlier this month.

Carthage ISD officials are raising concerns about safety and encouraging drivers to pay attention around school buses after an inattentive driver crashed and nearly hit students getting off a bus on Texas 315.

The incident, which happened on Nov. 8, was captured by one of the school bus’s video cameras and shows the car barreling across a ditch and rolling over on itself seconds after the children exit the bus.

“He never hit his brakes,” Executive Director of Transportation and Operations Renee Risinger said. “There were no skid marks whatsoever.”

Interim Superintendent Jim Dunlap showed the video at Monday’s school board meeting, with trustees and guests audibly gasping in shock. He said the car missed one of the children by about three feet. No serious injuries were reported, Dunlap said.

“Cars were stopped in the lefthand lane. If he had gone to the left, he would have hit head-on into those cars that were parked for the bus,” Dunlap said. “He was not paying attention, swerved to the right and just missed that child. That’s a video that kind of makes us all be real cautious and careful about buses being stopped.”

Trustee Truman Shirey told Dunlap he has been getting a lot of reports of cars violating the law around school buses, such as driving past school buses when their lights are on and by law drivers must stop. Risinger said they see violations every day.

“In the mornings, we have the sheriff’s department, they pick us up out on (U.S.) 79 and they follow our bus, literally, until we go into Oiltop Road. But while we’re on 79, they follow the bus, and every morning they’re writing tickets,” she said.

Risinger said DPS has now posted more officers on Texas 315 after seeing the Nov. 8 video, but the district is also asking for help on U.S. 59.

“We keep a running tally every day, morning and afternoon, of the number of reports that our lights have been ran,” she said. “If I gave you an estimate right now, y’all would all probably just kind of sit down in your chairs and gasp just like you did when you watched the video because it’s serious.”

School Bus Safety Tips

The Texas Department of Public releases school bus safety tips every year at the start of school and for Safety National School Bus Safety Week, which is observed in October.

“School buses are the safest mode of travel for children to get to school, and drivers need to do simple but crucial things, such as not passing a school bus or paying attention when they see a bus, to keep it that way,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “By not speeding around school buses and always looking for children, you just may save a life.”

DPS offers the following tips for school bus safety:

Children should limit what they carry and stick to what fits in their backpacks. This lessens the chance of dropping things in the road on the way to the bus stop.

Children should be at the bus stop five minutes early so they are not making dangerous choices to reach the bus in time, such as running to the bus, crossing the street illegally, running after the bus or running in front of it.

Parents should walk children to the bus stop if possible. If not, encourage them to walk to the bus stop with other children so they are more visible to drivers.

Ensure children know how to look both ways before crossing streets. Also, teach children to watch for vehicles pulling out of nearby driveways.

When a child is getting off the bus and needs to cross the street, make sure they don’t assume traffic will stop for them just because a bus has its stop arm out and lights flashing. Always look both ways before crossing.

If an adult meets a child when they get off the bus, always stand on the side of the street of the bus, so the child doesn’t have to cross the street alone.

If a child drops something when getting on or off the bus, they should never pick it up. The child should tell the driver, then wait for instructions on what to do.

Children should not stand or play in the street while waiting for the bus. It is dangerous and other drivers may not see them.

It’s safest if children stay three giant steps away from the road until the bus arrives. When children walk in front of the bus, they should stay about 10 feet away from the hood of the bus to ensure the driver can see them.

Children shouldn’t yell on the bus or run around, as it’s distracting for the driver.

When drivers see a school bus on the road, they should always give them plenty of room, knowing they stop frequently.

Drivers should be careful around railroad crossings. School buses are legally required to stop at them.

Drivers should reduce their speed when they see a school bus and know children may unexpectedly step into the road without checking for traffic.

Drivers also need to watch for children. While children should be alert, it is also up to drivers to pay attention, as students may be distracted, looking at mobile devices, talking to friends or not looking at the traffic.

Drivers must stop if a bus has flashing lights and its stop sign out, regardless of which way a bus is headed. Drivers are allowed to continue once the bus is in motion, the flashing lights have stopped or the driver signals you to proceed. Approaching drivers do not have to stop for a school bus that is operating a visual signal if the road is separated by a physical barrier or intervening space, such as a divided median. If the highway is only divided by a left-turn lane, it is not considered divided and drivers must stop for school buses.

It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus and may result in a fine up to $1,250 for a first offense. For people convicted of the offense more than once, the law allows for the person’s driver license to be suspended for up to six months. A ticket for this offense cannot be dismissed through defensive driving. Criminal charges are possible if a driver causes someone serious bodily injury.

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Meredith Shamburger serves as the regional editor for Carthage and Kilgore. She has previously worked at the Longview News-Journal, the Marshall News Messenger and The Dallas Morning News. Meredith graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2011.