Drivers putting kids on school buses at risk

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) —- School buses carry some of our most precious cargo. But, many bus drivers in Pinellas County tell News Channel 8 that drivers are making their job a lot harder and putting children’s lives at risk.

“You’re worried every time you think about it,” says one Pinellas County school bus driver.

They tell us drivers tend to ignore their stop arm when the bus is stopped while children are either loading or unloading the bus.

“You can only beep the horn and they keep going. They don’t stop,” says Ralph Ercolino who has been driving Pinellas County school buses for five years.

Drivers passing the stop arms happens constantly according to them. Some tell us they’ve seen 30-40 cars blow through it in just one day.

We rode along one route and saw car after car passing by us on Belcher Road. If it’s a divided highway with no median, the law still says to stop.

“They just fly by with no regards to the children,” says Annice Ionescu, who waits for her daughter’s bus with her on 4th Street North in St. Petersburg every day.

“Some of them are bold and just fly by. Others will kind of go, they’ll stop and think, ‘Oh OK, maybe if I just go slow it’ll be all right,” she says.

As News Channel 8 was talking to her, three vehicles passed by a bus. One was an Enterprise truck.

School officials want everyone to know this is illegal. Those caught passing on the left-hand side will be fined $165. Passing on the right hand side will cost $265.

Since Florida school buses don’t have cameras outside the bus to record, it’s difficult to catch everyone, which makes it that much more frustrating for bus drivers and parents.

“Hopefully this will wake people up and make them realize don’t do that. It’s very dangerous,” says Ionescu.

It’s up to school bus drivers to record information about violators. Often times, they’re busy making sure kids are getting on and off the bus safely. But, there is something you can do to help. If you see someone driving past a school bus’ extended “Stop” arm,  take a picture of the driver’s license plate and notify law enforcement.

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