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Child getting off school bus struck by car just days before National Bus Safety Week

Summersville, WV — Just two days before the National School Bus Safety Week, an 8-year-old girl was hit by a car in Summersville, West Virginia while getting off a school bus.  According to reports, the driver crashed into the young child because he failed to stop when the bus was flashing its red lights with its stop arm extended.  The law in West Virginia is clear; drivers cannot drive near a school bus or pass it when its stop arm is extended.

The little girl was struck by the girl and hospitalized just hours after police and state educators made a public statement asking drivers not to drive around stopped school bases. The statement was made after a recent survey of bus drivers revealed that, each day, about 450 drivers illegally pass a stopped school bus in the State.   West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple said it’s unbelievable that so many drivers endanger young lives by passing buses that are loading and unloading students. She hopes next week’s National Bus Safety Week will help stop drivers from passing buses and help children protect themselves.

Educators and law enforcement has made additional efforts to stop drivers from passing stopped school buses, including installing cameras on school buses to record license plates of vehicles that pass illegally.  According to Marple, the cameras will allow law enforcement to prosecute violators even when no police are around when the violation occurs.

According to the 2012 survey of bus drivers from 50 of West Virginia’s 55 counties, about 450 drivers pass stopped school buses on an average school day. About 40 drivers illegally pass buses in Kanawha County each school day, according to the survey.

State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous said violators are often distracted or not paying attention, and they fail to see the bus stop sign.  He also said he hopes the new state law that bans texting while driving will help reduce the incidence of drivers passing stopped school buses.

It seems that common sense would tell drivers that when a school bus is stopped in the middle of the road, there’s a good chance it’s because children are getting on or off the bus.  Hopefully, the new cameras and the state’s efforts to raise awareness of this issue will help better protect our children before more needless tragedies occur.

In 2007, Haven McCarthy, 6, of Lincoln County, was killed when she was struck by a car that illegally drove around a school bus. The driver pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was fined $50.  The community was outraged, and West Virginia Lawmakers responded with Haven’s Law, which makes it a felony to illegally pass a school bus. A driver who kills a child while illegally passing a school bus can now spend up to 10 years in prison or more if charged with additional crimes.

West Virginia will celebrate National School Bus Safety Week the week of October 22-26.  If you have teen drivers, please make sure they are aware of the importance of looking out for stopped school buses.  Teenagers tend drive while distracted and are at a much higher risk of being involved in a car crash than any other age group.  And of course, it never hurts to remind our children to look both ways before they cross the road.

By West Virginia personal injury lawyer, Brooks West



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