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OPINION: It’s time to crack down on people who run school bus stop signs

House Bill 84 will increase the fines for anyone who unlawfully passes a school bus. (Photo: KSL TV)

On an average day, Utah’s drivers run through 1,500 school bus stop signs.

That’s hard to imagine, but it’s true. When those red, flashing stop signs swing out on a child’s school bus, thousands of people in our state storm on through, completely ignoring the warning that, at any second, somebody’s child could step in front of their car.

It’s a horrible thing to do, but here in Utah, the fine for running a school bus stop sign, as a first offense, is only $100. And most of that 1,500 people that run those signs each day just never get caught.

And because of that, it keeps happening, year after year. People blast past stop signs, putting the lives of children in extreme jeopardy, and aren’t suffering consequences for it.

That’s absurd, because it would be so easy to put an end to this.

Our school buses are equipped with cameras that can – and do – capture cars running the school bus stop arms. All we’d have to do is put them to use and they could be our best tool for making sure our kids make it home alive.

Hundreds run school bus stop signs every day

Accident in Indiana caused by a driver running a school bus stop sign.

Emergency personnel responded to a scene of a collision that killed three children crossing SR 25 as they were boarding their school bus north of Rochester, Indiana on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. (Santiago Flores/South Bend Tribune via AP)

A family in Rochester, Indiana, just two weeks ago, lost three of their children in a blink of an eye.

Their school bus’s stop sign was out, the red lights flashing out a warning that kids were trying to make their way across the road, when a pickup truck flew past the bus and crashed right into the kids.

That was all it took. One person didn’t think she had time to stop, and because of that, a family lost their nine-year-old girl and their twin six-year-old boys.

Here in Utah, we run the risk of seeing a tragedy just like that one every day.

Our schools ran an experiment two years ago. For one day, on Nov. 9, 2016, bus drivers kept a tally of how many people they saw running school bus stop signs. By the time the day was over, they’d caught 1,500 people.

The worst offenders were in Central Salt Lake County. The bus drivers in our Granite School District caught 535 people running through stop signs in just one day.

Every car that rushes past one of those signs puts a child’s life in jeopardy. Those drivers are taking a roll on the dice every time they do it, and they do it hundreds of times a day. And every time the wrong number comes up, a child is going to die.

School bus surveillance cameras could save lives

School bus surveillance camera in Orem, Utah.

A bus in Utah’s Alpine School District fitted with a special camera designed to catch drivers who run the stop arm. (KSL TV)

We might have 1,500 violators a day, but that doesn’t mean that Utah is handing out 1,500 fines. Barely any of those people risking our children’s lives ever see any consequences for it whatsoever.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In our state, everything is in place to make sure that every single one of them pays the price.

Our buses’ surveillance videos are already filming them driving past their stop arms. If we started sending out fines to all those cars they caught of tape, the people who do this would start really filling the burn.

Utah has already passed a law allowing schools to do just that. As of May 2017, any school district in our state has the legal right to send those videos off to the police and get each and every violator fined.

The Alpine School District has already started doing it. They’ve recently fitted their cars with special cameras that do nothing but film cars running stop signs, and they’re making sure that every one of them pays the price.

They’re not the first people to try it. When schools in Montgomery County, Virginia tried that idea, they were able to send out 50,993 tickets in just two years.

Those tickets brought more than $10 million in revenue into their state. If a school here handed out that many fines, 20 percent of that money, under Utah law, would go directly to the schools that sent in the videos.

That’s all it would take to make running a school bus stop sign a crime with real consequences. All we have to do is hit record on those cameras and send the tapes of those thousands of people running past school bus stop signs off to the police.

The cameras are already there. Right now, we’re mostly just using them to catch kids throwing spitballs and paper airplanes, but it wouldn’t take a lot to use them in a way that would really protect our children.

More to the story

Drivers running school bus stop signs isn’t just a Utah problem, it’s nation-wide. A lot of solutions have been suggested, including one group floating a petition to make running a stop sign a federal crime with a $5,000 fee.

We talked about that idea on KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic, but my co-host, Dave Noriega, didn’t like the idea. He says this is an issue best left to the states.

If you missed the show live, you can still catch what he had to say about it on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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