Mexico schools see increased reports of bus stop arm violations

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MEXICO — The Missouri State Highway Patrol announced Tuesday Audrain County school bus drivers have been reporting more cases involving drivers who ignored bus stop arm laws.

These laws state the driver of a vehicle must stop their car when a bus is dropping off or picking up children from school until the bus moves or the driver gives a signal to other drivers to continue driving. This is the law regardless of whether the driver is behind the bus or driving on the other side of the road.

Since the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, Mexico Public Schools (MPS) bus drivers have reported 90 cases in which drivers violated these laws, creating potentially dangerous situations for children getting on and off buses.

The most common cause of these incidents is lack of attention from drivers.

"Inattention causes most of the accidents in Missouri," Missouri State Highway Patrol Officer Sgt. Scott B. White said. "When you're on your phone, people might ignore stop signs on the street."

"I had one [case] where a semi passed on the right-hand side and barely missed a student," MPS Transportation Director Curtis Jackson said.

Jackson said the main reason these violations are being more frequently reported is that MPS now has the funds to use cameras to crack down on lawbreakers.

"A year ago, I was able to get grant money to equip our buses with stop-arm cameras, which gets us the information that we need to to turn over to public safety," Jackson said.

Jackson said the money came from the Miriam Arnold Edmondston Foundation.

Jennifer Fowler is an MPS employee and the mother of three MPS schoolchildren who ride the bus daily. 

Fowler said she hopes to see a decrease in these incidents.

"I don't know that it's the numbers have changed, but I am sure we are able to do more now with the cameras," Fowler said.

There are drivers all over the country who violate these laws, and it is not exclusive to MPS.

"It happens in all the public school systems," White said. "We get reports of people doing this everywhere."

"Each year, we participate in a nationwide study," Jackson said. "I think there were 800+ (violations) in the state of Missouri in one day."

Jackson said drivers constantly review protocol to keep students the safest when loading and unloading.

White also advised drivers to follow the law, as it's in the best interest for all parties.

"If we find someone that has violated the law, it’s kind of a low-discretion stop," White said. "It’s not a situation where you can get a warning."

"If we feel the car's not going to stop, we're not going to unload the students," Jackson said. "Our students' safety is number one."