By Cathleen Moxley
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — The problem of drivers illegally passing school buses doesn’t appear to be getting better. In fact, some school bus drivers say it’s getting worse.
Video released Monday from last week shows cars whizzing past a school bus as it drops off children.
One of the vehicles caught on camera was a police cruiser.
The video is being handed over to Charleston Police to investigate what agency the police cruiser is with.
Like many other videos WSAZ has shown this school year, this one was captured in the Kanawha City area of Charleston.
The entire time she’s driving her school bus, Terri Byrd is hoping that nobody hits one of her students as they cross the road.
“I lay on my horn and I have stuck my head out the window yelling at people to get them to stop,” Byrd said.
That’s because the flashing red lights and stop sign don’t seem to be enough especially on her route, MacCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City, which is four lanes.
In West Virginia, the law requires drivers to stop for school buses on all roads except interstates. That includes MacCorkle Avenue.
“Up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know that you had to stop on a divided highway,” Betty Fluharty from Charleston said.
When she stopped for a bus last week, it made for a close call when the driver behind her nearly hit her.
“He barely got stopped before he hit me. At that point, he laid on his horn, like ‘what are you doing, lady?’ I rolled my window down and started pointing ‘school bus, school bus.’ He just kept blowing his horn, and then he went out and around me,” Fluharty said. “He could have very easily hit a child.”
School bus cameras can usually catch license plate numbers, but the owner of the vehicle can’t be charged on that alone. That doesn’t mean the driver is off scot-free.
“An officer can go to that residence, talk to the owner and find out who was driving the vehicle,” Kanawha County Prosecutor Chuck Miller said. “It just requires some investigation.”
Transportation officials plan to ask lawmakers to beef up the law during the next legislative session, so that the owner of the vehicle can be charged based on the license plate alone.
Miller says that could subject the owner to a substantial fine, and even jail time, for something they may not have done.
He says it’s not like running a toll booth that catches your license plate on camera. Miller says illegally passing a school bus is a crime, and is much more serious.
In the meantime, bus drivers like Byrd have a simple request for anyone behind the wheel.
“We’re hauling, or carrying, the world’s most precious cargo. We’re hauling your children. And our job is to get them to and from school safely, and when you see red flashing lights, stop,” Byrd said.