I-Team: OSP writing more tickets for passing stopped school buses

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2019 @ 6:30 PM

You’ve seen people speed to get around school buses and ignore their stop signs—and that kind of careless driving can end in tragedy. The News Center 7 I-Team combed through years of data to reveal thousands of crashes across Ohio involving school buses.

Stopping for school buses picking up or dropping off children is something nearly every driver knows they’re required to do by law, but many people in Ohio simply are not. 

The News Center 7 I-Team looked into the troubling trend one area lawmaker called an “epidemic.” 

>> School bus safety: When can you pass a stopped bus?

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Five-year data obtained by the I-Team from the Ohio State Highway Patrol shows state troopers have ticketed more drivers for not stopping for school buses nearly every year since 2018. 

The I-Team also found there were more than 6,500 crashes involving school buses statewide during that same time period. 

In February 2017, a Dayton school bus toppled over after colliding with a car that attempted to pass the bus.

Longtime Kettering school bus driver Marianne Meineke said the comparison between how things are on the road now, and how they were when she started driving, is easy. 

“I think it's worse,” she said. 

Meineke told the I-Team the habits of drivers can be difficult to navigate while simultaneously caring for children on-board the bus. 

“They hurry up and go around us; they run our lights; they cut us off; they don’t wait for lights,” she said, “They’re impatient.” 

News Center 7 began following this issue closely in the fall of 2018, when Miamisburg parent Joanna Bentley caught a driver flying past her child’s stopped school bus near Miamisburg High School.

>> New cameras on Miamisburg school buses aimed at capturing drivers who ignore stop signs

Bentley’s advocacy and stories about the problem by News Center 7 were followed by police stepping up enforcement in the area, and the district purchasing five new cameras to capture license plates of drivers who fail to stop. 

A New York student could have been hit by a car that illegally passed a stopped school bus, but luckily a fast-acting bus driver saved the boy’s life.

Also in recent months, state representative Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) has introduced legislation aimed at, among other things, steepening fines for drivers who get caught not stopping for the bus. 

“This is an epidemic,” Antani said. 

He told the I-Team that current state law does not penalize drivers severely enough to be a deterrent. 

“Right now, it's a $500 fine,” Antani said. “No points on your license, no criminal charges. We're talking about life and death of children here.” 

But police say the biggest agent for change must be drivers themselves. 

>> New bills promote video cameras to catch people driving past buses

Kettering Officer Joe Ferrell said the problem has roots in distracted driving. 

“Stay off your phone,” he said. “If you're distracted by your phone, and a child is not paying attention, something horrible is going to happen.”