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HUDSON --District bus drivers and staffers are trying to get the word out to drivers that school bus safety is an issue in Hudson and surrounding areas.
And while some people seem to be paying attention to the message, there are still bus drivers who see drivers run the red stop signal bus lights and extended signs. Bus drivers are afraid a child is going to get hurt or worse.
"We've had a lot of problems on Stow Road. People are not even slowing down when the reds come out," according to bus supervisor Kim Lane.
The reds are the red flashing lights which are activated when the bus stops and the door opens.
"It seems to be getting a lot worse now that people are on cell phones all the time and they are distracted with other things on their minds," Lane said. "They are just not paying attention to those school buses out there."
Lane stresses that drivers need to pay more attention around buses.
And while no children have been hurt yet, it almost happened recently.
Jim Montgomery has been a bus driver for the Hudson City Schools for three years. Each day he drives the high school and second grade routes.
In early December Montgomery was picking up morning elementary school passengers on his assigned Stone Road route. One young passenger sometimes has trouble doing what she is supposed to do when it comes to bus safety, he added.
"She usually doesn't follow my instructions," Montgomery remembered. "But for some reason that day she was watching for my signal."
If the girl had not been watching that day, she may have ended up seriously hurt or worse.
Montgomery had parked his bus toward the middle of Stone Road, which is narrow in that section, to pick up the passenger who would be crossing the street from her house to get to the bus.
"I saw a red car coming my way. It just kept coming and for some reason I didn't think she was going to stop," Montgomery said. "I held out my hand to make sure the little girl stayed there and she (the driver) just kept on going."
The driver ducked, thinking she was going to hit the extended red stop sign. She almost hit a mailbox and almost went off the road, but kept going.
"I just kept thinking if this was another day and the girl did not pay attention she could have gotten hit," he said.
The car did not slow down and kept going.
"That's a common story," Montgomery said. "Every driver can tell you the same story. At that point I was frustrated and thought that if I didn't do more, I could not live with myself if something like that actually happened."
And just a few hours before Montgomery watched another car speed through the school bus stop zone
"That morning I had a car go through my flashing reds on my high school route on Route 91," Montgomery said.
Montgomery decided more needed to be done and has been at the forefront of the safety information spearhead. The driver, along with fellow drivers and bus employees have been talking to police, council and the Board, to try and find a solution.
And it is not just the drivers who recognize there is a problem.
Erin Maley lives on Weir Driver and her 6-year-old daughter, Siena, is a bus rider.
Maley said drivers running red bus stop lights are not a major problem on her street, but she is aware of the problem.
"I've had friends who have been concerned about drivers not being safe when the buses slow down," Maley said. "It is a problem in the community, People don't think about what could happen if they stop paying attention for just a few seconds."
Hard to Catch Offenders
According to Montgomery police have ridden with drivers and drove behind them in cars. But it's tough to catch the offenders unless every one of the 80 drivers was accompanied by an officer.
Last school year Montgomery had about 25 incidents where drivers ran the flashing lights and stop sign. This year district wide, there have been more than 250 incidents among the 55 routes according to Montgomery. Drivers are averaging about three total incidents per day.
"At this pace by the end of the school year we will have almost 500 incidents which have occurred," he said. "What that means is that there will have been 500 times a child might have gotten hit. And that is a conservative figure."
The drivers can write down the offender's information but with driving and trying to make sure the passengers cross safely, it is hard to copy down the needed information, he said. And if the police cannot identify the drivers or car, nothing can be done, Montgomery said.
According to Montgomery the drivers running the stop signs and flashing lights are not just a "police problem or a bus driver problem -- I think it's everyone's problem."
What Drivers Should Do
Montgomery has talked to parents, police, Board and council members to try and make school bus stops more safer. And while he has gotten help from each group, there is still more that needs to be done to educate the public, he said.
"Some drivers are confused on what to do," Montgomery said.
If a bus is stopped on a street or road which has fewer than four lanes, all traffic in either direction must stop.
If a bus is stopped on a street with four or more lanes, only traffic in the same direction as the bus must stop.
The alternating flashing amber lights mean to slow the vehicle to a stop and watch for children who may run into the road. Never pass a school bus that has a red stop sign displayed or red alternating flashing lights on. Traffic should remain stopped until the bus resumes moving or the driver signals traffic to proceed
However, some drivers are still treating the flashing amber lights as yellow lights at a stop sign and speed through them, Montgomery said.
Montgomery is asking all drivers to be more aware and careful when they see a bus stopped.
"Don't ever pass a bus if it's already stopped." Montgomery said. "Just think, that might be your child getting on or off the bus. And we don't ever want to make that call telling them their child is not coming home."