CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (WAVE) - "If that's your child, would you want someone going around the stop arm?" asked Charlene Ross, a longtime school bus driver. "And the answer would be no."
Some drivers are ignoring the law, going right past school buses with their stop arms out. It happens every day in Clarksville and in school districts like it around the state.
It’s a concerning trend for parents and bus drivers, worried about student safety. Now, police in Clarksville are cracking down on the growing trend to keep an eye on students.
Each morning and afternoon, school buses hit the roads, picking up and dropping off Clarksville students. It’s routine but often risky.
“That is the scariest part of the day is when the child has to cross in front of your school bus because you don’t know what those drivers are going to do,” Ross said. Ross has been driving school buses for decades, with Clarksville in recent years.
Drivers trying to pass buses on the roads or ignoring the stop arms when students are loading or unloading is something Ross said she sees every day.
“It could be several at one stop,” she said. “You know, one will go through and the next one will just follow them. So, what they’re looking at, I don’t know, sometimes they’re on their cell phones.”
“I’m a father and I have a kid and it’s scary knowing there’s people out here that don’t take it serious,” said Officer John Miller, Public Information Officer with the Clarksville Police Department.
So Clarksville police are stepping up, patrolling behind buses.
“Our primary concern is the safety of our kids in the community,” Miller said, following behind one bus on its way to pick up kids for school.
Following buses on their route, it doesn’t take long to catch a driver in the act. You can see as the bus stops, to pick up students when a black car slides through a stop sign and past the bus, ignoring the stop arm.
“And just like that we have a violator that could have hurt a kid,” Miller said.
When officers are out, some drivers catch themselves, stopping before they pull out in front of a police car.
“He thought about running it,” Miller said, pointing to a Jeep as the bus picks up students near a church.
“I’ve been in unmarked cars before, and I’ve been in marked police cars and it doesn’t matter,” Miller said. “You have the same result because it’s a lot of the time, due to people not paying attention or they’re distracted with something.”
After three children were hit and killed when a driver ignored a bus in northern Indiana last fall, state lawmakers strengthened laws for drivers who pass buses illegally, including making it a felony if you drive around and hit someone.
“It makes me feel better, but you have to have someone there to catch them,” Ross said.
That’s why Clarksville police, including its school resource officers, will be out more this year patrolling buses, hoping to put a stop to stop-arm violators for good so students don’t have to worry about staying safe.
“We’ve got precious cargo and I worry about those kids,” Ross said.