They're called "drive-bys." Others call them "fly-bys."
Whatever you want to call them, they're flat-out dangerous. Drivers, who can't wait for students to make their way off a school bus, ignore flashing lights and an outstretched stop sign, and speed past the stopped bus. To do so is illegal, dangerous and, sadly, too frequent.
Last year, a statewide spot-check counting up the number of drivers who sped by school buses totaled 37. In one day. That's 37 times a driver put students' lives at risk for trips shortened by a few measly minutes. It seems that drivers still haven’t gotten the message: If you zoom past a stopped school bus with a stop sign out and flashers on, you’re breaking the law. We're pleased to hear school bus cameras are rolling out statewide, and we urge police and prosecutors to pursue and punish "drive-by" drivers.
Reckless drivers who speed past a bus can face a $420 fine and up to a year in jail if they do so again within a year. Yet despite the potential for jail time, people still put their own and others' lives in their hands, with sometimes deadly results.
Makayla Marie Strahle was 11 years old when she stepped off a school bus in December 2011. It was foggy, but the bus' flashing lights were on. A vehicle driven by William Dean Barnes struck and killed the girl. Barnes later was convicted of several misdemeanor charges.
Strahle's death led to legislation passed this year by the Wyoming Legislature that requires all school districts in Wyoming to install video cameras on their school buses as a way to catch law-breaking drivers.
Bus drivers continue to report drivers who simply refuse to let a stopped bus and crossing children get in the way of what they want. Fremont County recently reported drivers bust through one school bus stop sign a day.
Yet in both Laramie County and Fremont County, where cameras are installed, school district employees are concerned police aren't doing anything about evidence caught on the video cameras. Regardless of whether that's true or not, we call on police and district attorneys to take seriously the evidence they're given, find the offending drivers and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
Of course, such bus cameras would be unnecessary if drivers used some common sense. A stopped school bus isn't using flashing lights or an extended stop sign to ruin your day. It's using its warning devices to make sure you don't hurt or kill others. If you see flashing lights or a stop sign, slow down and stop. Don’t pass a school bus when you’re not supposed to. You could kill a child.
Installing bus cameras is a start to keeping students safe, as is prosecuting and convicting offenders. We hope such strong moves will get drivers' attention. If not, the story of little Makayla Strahle will have a tragic sequel.