20 students a year in the state of Texas are struck while in the loading zone of a school bus. Many are killed. Last September in East Texas, a 6-year-old Myrtle Springs boy lost his life. Over the past month, we have seen other disturbing accidents involving school buses. Today is the opening of school bus safety week, and, our cameras caught East Texas motorists putting school children at risk. The fate of a child on a school bus can change in a split second, as was evident when a Columbus, Ohio school bus was caught on camera three weeks ago, flipping over on it's side after avoiding oncoming traffic. Fortunately, in that case, no one was seriously hurt. But that doesn't change the fact that school bus drivers, like Cynthia Wemitt in Chapel Hill, are forced to deal, everyday, with motorists right here in East Texas, breaking the law.
"Everyday on my bus, somebody wants to speed up and pass the bus like it's a race," said Wemitt, "and I have my hazards on. It's an everyday occurrence."
How bad is the problem? While following Chapel Hill bus number 26 this afternoon, we witnessed car after car, blowing by the bus while stopped to drop off kids.
"When my bus stops, and that sign comes out," said Wemitt, "they trust that all the cars are going to stop. They don't even look. They just try to run across the street, and they can get hit because people aren't stopping on the other side."
Sergeant Kevin Wood and the Department of Public Safety say enough is enough. They are out in force this week, busting drivers who don't follow the rules.
"Whenever you're approaching a school bus in either direction on a highway that does not have a dividing section," said Wood, "once the red lights come on, then everybody has to stop, going both directions."
It's as simple as that. While riding on a school bus remains nearly 2000 times safer than the family car, preventable accidents still happen.
"That's something I think about everyday when I drive these kids around," said Wemitt. "I think, they're important and I don't want nothing to happen to them. If something happened to one of them kids, like my own kids, I would be devastated."