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Monday, September 22, 2014
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Published: Friday, 4/30/2010

Child safety in focus

IT shouldn't take a camera recording illegal behavior to get motorists to stop for school buses that are picking up or dropping off schoolchildren. But it does.

In January, freshman Morgan Duris was killed crossing the street to board a school bus for Northview High School. The driver of the sport utility vehicle that ended the 15-year-old's life told Sylvania police that she saw the bus coming and was trying to pass it before its red lights came on. She said she never saw the victim.

Cynthia Anderson, 66, will go on trial next month on a charge of aggravated vehicular homicide. If she is convicted, she could go to prison for five years. One life lost, two families devastated, and for what? To avoid the inconvenience of having to stop for a minute or two for a school bus?

Sadly, what Ms. Anderson told police she did is all too familiar.

Yellow lights, whether on a school bus or a traffic signal, frequently are interpreted by otherwise law-abiding local motorists to mean "hurry up" rather than "prepare to stop." The result is an alarming tendency for drivers to run red lights.

Five years ago, after 5-year-old Dameatrius McCreary was killed crossing the street by a distracted driver who didn't stop for the boy's school bus in Oregon, school officials across the region reported that drivers often ignore the flashing red lights and swing-out stop sign on buses. Some districts said it happened at least once a day.

It would never occur to these drivers that they're putting anyone in danger, not even after tragedy strikes. The law is for other people - bad drivers - not for them.

Fortunately, fatalities are few compared to the number of violations, many of which are never reported because the school bus driver doesn't get the offender's license plate number. But even when a driver is identified, most police departments say they hand out warnings rather than tickets.

In the wake of January's fatal accident, Sylvania schools are fighting back. They are installing cameras on three school buses that will create a video record - including plate number - of vehicles that don't follow state law and stop when students are picked up or dropped off.

At $1,550 a camera plus $250 for installation, it's not cheap. And having more license plate numbers doesn't mean police will start handing out more tickets. But the price is small compared to the loss of a child, and other area school systems should take note.

Drivers also should pay attention. The next time you speed up because you see a school bus about to stop, remember: Someone may be watching.



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