WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – A video sent to NEA Report appears to show a driver blatantly violating Arkansas State Law by passing a school bus while it was stopped and loading students Monday in Walnut Ridge
A Hoxie patrol car was also present during the entire encounter and never reacted, according to an angry mother that spoke to NEA Report.
The video above was posted on Facebook at 9:59 AM on Monday. The person who posted the video, Sami Lawson, wrote that her young girls were loading on the school bus while cars recklessly ignored the bus’ flashing stop sign.
“I know my girls don’t cross the road to get on the bus, but that does NOT give reason to pass a bus that is clearly stopped,” Lawson wrote. “The law clearly states both sides of the road have to stop.”
Lawson is correct, too. As shown in this Arkansas State Police instructional video, vehicles must stop on both sides of the road/highway/street – even if it is a four-lane.
Another alarming element to the video Lawson posted was that a police cruiser was said to be present the entire time by the original poster.
“…Shame on you to the gray SUV police car that was behind the bus for ignoring this car or simply not paying attention,” Lawson said.
Lawson chatted with NEA Report on Friday. She said it was a Hoxie Police Department patrol vehicle that was present during the incident but the bus was stopping on the Walnut Ridge side of the city limits. This presents a jurisdictional question of if the Hoxie officer could have stopped the vehicle. Walnut Ridge city officials were reviewing this question Friday morning but Lawson felt there were still other choices besides the a traffic stop.
“…you think they could have called WR in or maybe even saw the video and have cars patrolling there,” Lawson said. “My kids say during the afternoon when they get off they actually have to cross the highway and cars don’t stop. That’s an even bigger problem. My girls don’t get off there in the afternoons but other children do.”
Hearing stories of reckless drivers and then capturing the same behavior on video made Lawson furious. The concerned mother said she has seen too many news reports of children being hit by cars at bus stops to let this continue happening without speaking up.
“You would think seeing that on the news they would stop and pay more attention,” Lawson said.
She hopes this story and her effort to bring attention to the issue will stop a tragedy from unfolding. At the same time, Lawson knows it will take local government leaders stepping in to help realize change. She suggested more patrols during the time buses are picking up and dropping off kids and the person who violates the law to be held accountable, unlike in the video above.
NEA Report reached out to both Walnut Ridge and Hoxie city leadership regarding the video. Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp planned to review the video with the police chief. A message was left with Hoxie City Hall for a return call from Hoxie Mayor Dennis Coggins.
As a previous bus driver in the Jonesboro area, this is a common issue. One thing that the district should look into is to see if the route could be routed that the children in the afternoon do not have to cross the highway. Of course this isn’t going to keep people from running the red lights, but it could keep a child from getting killed.
Another issue bus drivers face, is the fact that if you turn in the license plates number to the city attorney, 9 out of 10 times it’s thrown out because there isn’t enough information to cite the owner of the car.
The only time a bus driver is notified that a citation is issued, is when the individual who was cited fights it in court. From what I have been told, 43% of state taxes collected for education goes toward transportation. Why can’t schools have cameras installed to record when drivers pass a stopped school bus? The ideal is to be proactive but it seems like administrators wait until a child is killed before acting. This issue is HUGH issues with us drivers but their hands are tied. It has been a discussion on everyone’s plate during the State Bus Driver Workshop that’s required by the State every year for bus drivers.