Drivers ignoring school bus stop signs putting students in danger

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

KATY, Texas - When Kynyatta Ford drops her two children, 8-year-old Rachel and 7-year-old Joshua, at their bus stop in southwest Houston in the morning, she always holds her breath and says a silent prayer.

That's because on just the second day of school this year, her two precious children were nearly killed by a driver who blasted right by the flashing red lights and the school bus stop arm warning drivers to stop.

She says he came within three feet of killing her children.

"I just had to stop and hold my kids back so they didn't get hit.  It scared me to death," Kynyatta says, shaking her head.

Now, brand new bus mounted cameras are catching drivers on film, blowing right by school buses. We're talking about buses with their big, red stop arms out, their red lights flashing and kids crossing the street to get on board.

One national school safety group says there will be 13 to 15 million illegal bus passes this school year in the United States.

But beyond the horror of possibly killing a small child, in Texas the fines for this offense are skyrocketing. In fact, in the last legislative session, state lawmakers increased the maximum fine for blowing by school buses that are loading children from $1,000 to $1,250 for the first offense.

With help from The Katy ISD Police Department, Local 2 Investigates decided to follow one school bus one morning to see how bad the problem has become.

It didn't take long; at the very first stop, just four minutes into the trip, we watched as six different cars blew right by the flashing lights and stop signs and zipped right by that bus.

Of the six offenders, Katy ISD officers were able to catch four. All four were cited with tickets and we were able to confront two of them.

"Honest to God, I come this way every day and I did not see the lights.  I have to be able to see the Flashing lights to be wrong," one driver told us.

"I didn't do anything. I did not go through those stop signs," another driver said.

Despite their denials, both those drivers were ticketed.

Across the country in 16 different school districts, new bus-mounted cameras are now catching careless drivers on film violating the law.

A company called American Traffic Solutions out of Tempe, Arizona, is selling the cameras, but there are none being used in the Houston area at this time.

A spokesman for American Traffic Solutions says there is no upfront cost to school districts for the camera systems; the cameras are paid for through a portion of the fines that each school district collects from the drivers who are breaking the law.

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