FOX 29 Investigates: Drivers Passing Stopped School Buses

- The tragic news broke late last week: Three Minnesota teens were injured, two critically, when a motorists raced past a stopped school bus and struck them.

It's just the kind of frightening scenario that keeps parents up at night.

And it's why a local grandfather called FOX 29 Investigates, Jeff Cole reports.

Lee Fox, a 70-year-old grandpa and small business owner told us, "I don't plan on ever retiring, to be honest with you."

But he makes time to train his cell phone on vehicles blazing east and west on Route 322 in Harrison Township, South Jersey.

He's got lots riding on this: 6-year-old twin grandchildren who hop the school bus and say vehicles roar past their bus with its red lights blinking, stop sign out.

"That's when it made me think I should get involved, possibly, and see how bad it really was," Fox said.

Over a few days in December, he recorded enough to make him rage with anger. And he uploaded them to YouTube.

"Some of these vehicles, at a high rate of speed when they go by, they have not touched the brakes whatsoever," he said.

And he called FOX 29 Investigates.

For the first three weeks in January, we spot-checked the bus stop and watched vehicles speed past buses as the twins and their 12-year-old brother got on and off.

"The traffic just flies right past like there's not even a bus here," said the children's mother, Cherie Fox. "… People come flying down this road. What if they hit the bus when my kids are getting on? Nobody is seat-belted in yet. I mean, I just worry that there's going to be an accident, and somebody is going to get hurt."

Route 322 in Mullica Hill is a very busy four-lane highway. There is no barrier separating the lanes. For routes like these, under state law, all motorists must stop on both sides of the highway for school buses loading or dropping kids.

"Maybe people are unaware that on a four-lane highway they have to stop," Fox said.

While some stopped, many motorists either didn't know the law or didn't care.

On Jan. 17 just after 3 p.m., our video shows a pickup truck passing the bus on the same side of Route 322.

And again on Jan. 20, two cars break the law as our cameraman records the twins boarding.

We showed our video to Lt. Ron Cundey of the Harrison Township Police, who said, "It's shocking to be honest with you, that that many violations are going on."

Cundey claims he has no complaints for vehicles passing school busses for that section of Route 322 from September on.

But the township's transportation supervisor tells FOX 29 she spoke to police around the holidays to alert them to the hazard.

Cheri Fox says she has called police in the past, but vehicles stop only when the police are seen.

Cundey said he's now made the stop a "mandatory traffic post" for his officers and put up a big sign that says "YOU MUST STOP FOR SCHOOL BUSES."

But, even with that, several cars passed a stopped bus. One was pulled over as we watched and recorded.

Cundey said he's "very concerned about the safety of the children. If a child hops off the bus and runs out into the roadway, they're going to get hit and very seriously injured or even worse, and we don't want to have to deal with that."

The digital news site NJ.com reports that more than 1,600 summonses were issued in 2016 to Garden State motorists for failure to stop for school buses.

Earlier this month, a 14-year-old was struck and seriously injured in Cape May County while trying to board her bus.

And last year in Allentown, Pa. there was a student just inches from being struck. The near-miss was recorded by a camera on her Parkland School District bus.

Back along Route 322, even a 6-year-old knows of the potential danger: "Hey, did you see that?" the boy asked our cameraman. "They're still passing the bus! They are still passing the bus."

"There was like five of them, right?" our cameraman asked.

"Yeah," the boy agreed.

Get caught passing a school bus in Jersey and it's a hefty fine, points on your record, possible loss of license, maybe a little jail time – along with the potential tragedy of hitting and injuring a child, Cole reported.

The New Jersey Senate on Monday passed a bill that would allow school buses to have cameras to catch drivers passing them while stopped. The bill next moves to the state assembly for consideration.

Have a tip for the FOX 29 Investigates team? Email us at fox29.undercover@foxtv.com or like Jeff Cole's Facebook page and send us a message!


State Laws:

New Jersey: School Bus Safety Brochure: "An Equation for Safety"

Pennsylvania: School Bus Safety

 

Delaware: DE School Bus Safety

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