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Illegally passing school buses proves to be a never-ending problem

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Unfortunately, the laws meant to protect school buses and the children on them are frequently ignored. Drivers across the state fail to stop for loading and unloading school buses everyday, so we hopped on a Tyler school bus with our cameras rolling to see just how big of a problem we have in East Texas.

Tyler ISD Bus #14 carries some the littlest students in East Texas-- a few of the riders are still in their very first semesters of school.

"See ya Gladys. See ya in the morning. Bye," says bus driver Richard Pittman.

You want to be sure to stop for these little ones when you see them getting on and off of the school bus. Before you ever see them -- if you're paying attention -- you should see bright flashing lights and a familiar stop sign, first.

When a school bus turns on their amber lights, consider them like a yellow stop light-- warning drivers to slow down and stop. By the time their lights are red, drivers should be stopped. Their red stop sign automatically comes out when the bus driver has opened the door.

"You know, even like this car that just almost passed us, they had warning that we getting ready to stop," explained Tyler ISD Transportation Director John Bagert who was riding along with us.

For the most part, the drivers along TISD Bus #14's route were on their very best behavior.

"Everybody is going to stop today," exclaimed Pittman.

However, the day was still young. At Stewart Middle School, we hopped on TISD Bus #25. That bus was just another of the 93 TISD buses making their rounds throughout Smith County each day.

It didn't take long to see we wouldn't be as lucky on this route. At the very first stop, a car went whizzing by as students were getting off. A couple of stops later, the unloading bus was passed again.

"It continues to be a problem as long as the drivers are not paying attention to what they're doing," says Bagert.

TISD bus drivers report offenders to their team leaders and that information gets reported to police, but with so many buses on the road all of the time, it'd be easier-- and safer-- if East Texans would police themselves.

"If they will stop for those load lights while the students are loading and unloading, that will reduce the majority of the risks that we have in transporting those students safely to school," says Bagert.

TISD uses their own GPS tracking to keeps a record of when and where drivers report being passed. Then, they hand that information off to authorities who look for patterns, or hot spots, but it's happening everyday.

"It's an every day occurrence and it's just complacency," says TISD Transportation Team Leader Rusty Smith.

Smith says, for a week in October, DPS troopers rode buses while tag along cars prepared to pull over East Texas drivers who weren't obeying the law.

Bus drivers say they frequently see people breaking this law on four lane highways that have a center turn lane. If there is not highway divider, like a cement median in the middle of the road, then all four lanes of traffic are supposed to stop.

If you don't stop for a loading or unloading bus, you could be slapped with a recently increased fine between $1,250 and $2,000. If you think you're seeing people disregard this law near your child's Tyler school bus stop, you can find the contact information for the Tyler Traffic Division Supervisor here

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