Parents push for safer bus routes after tragedy in Rochester

WHITELAND, Ind. – Hoosier parents are calling for safer bus routes after three siblings were killed at a bus stop in Rochester. They were crossing the street to board the bus when a driver hit and killed them. Some now think changing routes will keep their kids safe.

There were more than 500,000 "STOP" arm violations recorded across the state last school year, according to Indiana's Department of Education. Parents want school districts to step in since drivers are not following the rules.

Emily Skipper's son was getting on the school bus in Bargersville during morning pick up when a truck violated the "STOP" arm. It was caught all on her home's surveillance camera. She could not believe it happened the day after the tragedy in Rochester.

"You always think the next day is going to be the safest day and it could have been my kid," said Skipper.

Skipper is thankful her son no longer has to cross the street to get on the bus. She said he originally had to but Center Grove Community School Corp's Transportation Department changed his route last year.

"Our kids are on the bus maybe 10 minutes longer but I will take that than them not being here with us," she said.

Rick Pederson, Director of Transportation for Center Grove Community School Corp, said not every area in the district can have right hand stops. He said it is also difficult to change routes in subdivisions where you have kids coming from all directions.

"It does take a great deal of effort on office staff to make those changes," said Pederson. "When you change the route, it can have a snowball effect on every route."

Pederson said they have made a number of bus route changes on major roadways so kids do not have to cross the street. He could not think of a single area where changes had not been made. He said these decisions can mean longer ride times for students but that is better than someone getting hurt.

Skipper is now hoping other school districts change their routes too so no child has to cross the street. Bus drivers in central Indiana said people typically violate the "STOP" arm because they are distracted.

"It makes me mad," said Randy White, a bus driver for Clark-Pleasant Community Schools. "As a bus driver, I am in charge of taking all of those kids and people are just 'me me me'."

Safer bus stops are something some transportation departments have been thinking about for a while. Robert Downin, Director of Transportation for Clark-Pleasant Community Schools, said he usually hears about two violations every day in his district. He admitted 10 out of 70 buses have routes where kids have to cross the street but a lot of them are in housing divisions. Downin said they try to limit that as much as possible.

"We have had some parents call with concern," he said. "Every time a parent calls, I actually go out on the bus myself to make sure we are doing it the best way that we can."

White liked the way the district plans out the routes. He thought they were really careful about how they do it.

As the "STOP" arm violations go up, Skipper hopes children are kept safe whatever the cost.

"How many more kids have to die getting on the school bus before something happens?" said Skipper.

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