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FOX 5 I-Team

School Bus Stops: Danger Zones

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CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - For three years running, Georgia led the nation in bus stop accidents.  It was eye opening.  This meant children getting hurt or killed by drivers while simply trying to catch a school bus.  So, school systems started fitting buses with cameras to catch drivers who don't stop for children loading and unloading. But, is it working?

"Good morning," rang out from long-time driver Tamika Rawls' bus at each stop.  It was still dark in Clayton County when the little ones loaded onto the school bus.   

By drop off, the sunlight was just peeking through the bus windows, "Pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, come on!"

So, it's more important than ever that drivers stop when they see a school bus with flashing lights and an outreached arm that clearly says "STOP."  Ms. Rawls told the I-Team vehicles still fly by ignoring the signs and state law.   

"You can feel the bus kind of shift a little bit because they're going at a fast speed, so the wind will cause the bus to shift a little bit," she said.

Statewide, 21 school districts now have cameras on the outside of the bus to capture the problem.  In Cobb County we saw video after video of buses with the stop arm clearly out being ignored.  In one clip, a student crossed the road while an SUV buzzed right by him.  

In Clayton County the transportation department just installed exterior bus cameras.  What they captured in just the first three months was startling. They logged nearly 900 violations, drivers who just ignored the big, flashing stop sign.

"I don't know for sure why the numbers are so high, but I do know that the numbers are going to start coming down now because people start getting tickets," said Harold Walker, the Clayton County Director of Transportation.

The I-Team hopped a ride on a Clayton County bus.  Our cameras rolled as we watched several vehicles that morning pass by the flashing stop arm.  The company that monitors these cameras is still reviewing the cases, so no citations have been issued yet.

But later that day - on this same bus - several drivers were ticketed for failing to stop for this same school bus.  

Alarmed that Georgia ranked number one nationally for three years in a row for bus stop accidents, the state's First Lady Sandra Deal got behind the wheel of the awareness program "Stop Means Stop" hoping to U-turn a terrible trend.

As of April 24, the counties that issue citations have ticketed nearly 12,173 drivers since the beginning of the school year.  But here's the good news:  They tell us there are few repeat offenders.  And this might be a deterrent:  First-time offenders are fined $300.  A second offense gets you a $750 ticket.

Harold Walker said, "It's kind of like the seat belt law when it first started out; we had to keep reminding people to wear our seat belt and we have to continue to remind peoples with the flashing red light and the stop arms."

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