(WBRE/WYOU-TV)     How safe are our children when they are bused to school? The answer to that question is – frequently, they aren’t! After receiving numerous complaints about people running stop signs and flashing lights when students board their busses the I-Team began looking into the problem. What lead I-team reporter Andy Mehalshick found in “The Big Yellow Bus” should disturb every parent.

  Frank Ligi has been driving school buses in the Carbondale area for four years. He has seen frequently frightens him.   “Car drivers, they pass you when you got your reds on. When you’re loading children up the cut you off. They pull in front of you,” Said Frank Ligi- J.W. Transit

 The “reds’ Frank is referring to are the familiar red lights school buses flash while picking up or dropping off students. We went on a morning run with Frank in Carbondale. He says his head has to be on a swivel.

  “When you get to the bus stop you go very very slow. Some of the kids do run out especially, the kindergarteners” Ligi explained.

 But it’s approaching cars and trucks that Ligi and other school bus drivers worry about most.

  “They’re always on their cell phones.”

That distracted driving makes Ligi nervous because stopping these big yellow buses because of another driver’s mistake is no easy task.

  “These things don’t stop as fast as a car. It takes two football fields to stop these buses when they are going 45-50 miles per hour.”

  “The big yellow buses while they are friendly our kids we hope they enjoy their ride to and from school,” Noted Robert Mehalick, Superintendent of Carbondale School District.

 During the 2016/17 school year, the most recent year available from the state transportation department, more than 1.5 million school children were transported every day in Pennsylvania. Yet, every year more than 700 drivers are convicted of passing a stopped bus with its lights flashing – and those are just the ones who got caught.

  “Don’t follow too closely behind the buses pay attention don’t be texting on your phone,” Said Mehalick.

  “It’s definitely distracted driving. We’ve even had accidents where someone was reaching for a cell phone. It’s distracted driving,” Noted Janelle Davison.  She manages S-T-A Transportation which provides bus transportation for students in the Wilkes-Barre area. She showed us what onboard cameras show what their drivers see nearly every day. Remember, drivers must stop and cannot pass a school bus when the lights flash and the cross arm out.

  “You can see the stop arm come out. You can see the red lights come on and a car goes right by,” Said Davison.

 And in one video a car drives through an intersection when the children are getting off.

  The driver puts up her arms in disgust and writes down the license plate number.

   “I’m sending people tickets when they pass my bus,” The Bus Driver said.

 But even with a license plate number, Davison notes “Unfortunately unless they are pulled over by a police officer and charged. If we have the make and model and license plate of a car unless our driver can point that person out who was driving in a court of law they are found not guilty.”

Davison recently took part in an undercover operation near the Bear Creek Charter School in Luzerne County. Despite signs, lights and speed monitors near the entrance to the campus. In an effort to slow down drivers because of heavy bus traffic… She says many drivers simply ignored the warnings. And they were cited by the police.

 We saw the same thing this day.   

“They are getting more dangerous every day. It’s an everyday occurrence.”

   School officials say the bottom-line is simply this: making sure that each and every day all of our children get to and from school safe and sound.   Penalties for violating school bus safety laws in Pennsylvania are stiff. If convicted you will have a 60-day suspension of your license, have 5 points added to your driving record and you’ll pay a $250 fine.

Learn more about School Bus Safety: LINK:  Click Here

School Bus Safety Fact Sheet LINK; Click Here

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