MIAMI VALLEY — 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”