Jeff Myers couldn’t believe what he saw on the road Tuesday morning. As he was watching his daughter board her school bus on Old Shelbyville Road, a motorist disregarded the stop sign and flashing lights and sped right around the bus.
“This guy decided the stop sign didn’t apply to him and he zipped right around that bus,” said Myers. “People need to think a little more about children’s safety. I realize he was in a hurry, but that was my daughter. There are kids boarding buses every morning. You would think people would be a little more careful, especially with what happened here a few years ago.”
Hickory Creek first-grader Sedryc Simmons, 7, was killed in 2009 when he was crossing the street to board his school bus. Coincidentally, that was also on Old Shelbyville Road. A police investigation determined the bus warning lights were not working when Sedryc was crossing the road.
Durham School Services operates the Warren County School System’s fleet of buses. Durham general manager Sheri Layne says she regularly gets calls about motorists passing stopped school buses.
“This is a very big problem,” said Layne. “We try to catch people as we can, but there needs to be more awareness. People need to realize when those lights are flashing and the stop sign is out, that means stop. Even if the bus is not stopped, motorists need to exercise caution around a school bus because there are usually children on board.”
Layne estimates she receives around three complaints a week about motorists passing a stopped school bus. She says if the person is able to get a license plate number, the person is sent a warning letter in the mail by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
If an officer sees a motorist passing a stopped school bus, that motorist can be ticketed and taken to court. Passing a stopped school bus is one of the most serious moving violations, costing a motorist 8 points on their driving record, according to McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton. A motorist is allowed 12 points over a 12-month period before his or her license is suspended.
“Passing a stopped school bus is among the most serious violations,” said Denton. “Fleeing a law enforcement vehicle or speeding in excess of 46 mph over the posted speed limit are other violations which will get you 8 points if convicted.”
Layne said Durham has a safety committee and one of that committee’s chief concerns is getting motorists to stop when a school bus has its stop sign out.