TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - After two six-year-old twin boys and their older nine-year-old sister were killed as they crossed the street to get on the bus in Fulton County, many in the Greater Lafayette area are starting to voice concerns and raise awareness.
"It's your worst nightmare that something like this can happen," said Lafayette Police Department School Resource Officers Mark Roberts.
Roberts works with children of all ages across all Lafayette schools.
"It happens all over the county and it's a shame,” said Tippecanoe County School Corporation Transportation Director Greg Haltom.
A shame that cars don't seem to want to stop for the school bus stop sign.
And because one driver didn't stop, three young children in Fulton County are forever taken from their loved ones.
"I can't imagine the unspeakable sadness and tragedy," said local mom Melissa Luebbe.
Anna Hirst has been a bus driver for West Lafayette schools for six years. She sees cars blow past her bus everyday.
"I am not on as busy of a street as other drivers and they have multiple stop arm violations on a daily basis,” she said.
Melissa Luebbe stands with her 5-year-old son Henry every day as he gets on Hirst's school bus. Henry, a kindergartener, just started riding the bus in August.
"Henry and Melissa are great because they will wait until I make eye contact with them and I give them the crossing signal," said Hirst.
All students are supposed to wait for their bus driver to give the “all clear” signal for them to board the bus. Because the bus driver sits at a higher viewpoint, Haltom says they have the best chance to catch a car that isn’t stopping and warn the student.
"Mrs. Anna (Hirst) tries to be extremely detail oriented about making sure that she does not let children cross if there is traffic nearby,” said Luebbe of her son’s bus driver.
So when can you legally pass a stopped school bus?
When a bus' stop arm is extended and the red lights are flashing, vehicles are required by law to stop. When they are flashing yellow, you can still pass. But Officer Roberts recommends drivers see the yellow lights as a warning to stop.
Hirst said she regularly sees people racing to pass her bus while the lights are flashing yellow.
"When you see those yellow lights, don't try to beat the bus. Come to a complete stop and wait until they have loaded or unloaded the students." said Roberts.
On a regular two lane street, both lanes must stop for a school bus. However when there is a grass or cement median dividing the road, cars driving in the opposite direction of the bus can pass using caution.
If a police officer was to catch you speeding through a school bus stop, Roberts said that action can cost you a lot..
“Reckless driving is something someone can be incarcerated for,” he said. “So if you just blatantly blow through a stop sign and an officer sees it, their going to stop you and they can technically arrest you for reckless driving."
You could also get a monetary fine for ignoring the bus stop.
Hirst said she and other bus drivers are actively looking at license plates and noting car descriptions to report to the police.
Many don’t want to see what happened in Fulton County happen here in Tippecanoe County.
You may see some little black ribbons on your child's bus for the next few days.
"The Indiana State Police have allowed district buses to place black flags or ribbons on our bus ,as long as they didn't obstruct views, in a way to memorialize the folks up in Rochester," said Haltom.
He explained that all TSC bus drivers go through extensive training on how to safely get students on and off the bus.
"We've been working with the sheriff's office and doing some upgraded enforcement for that," he said.
Hirst said that West Lafayette Schools sent out an email to all bus drivers refreshing them on all the do’s and don’ts of proper school bus safety.
Many of our bus drivers are actively working to help educate students about school bus safety.
"It's important that I teach them daily that you need to always look around you too," said Hirst.
But parents can help too.
"Parents need to talk to them and say, Hey, you know wait until the bus driver is ready for you, don't just run out there," said Roberts.
Because at the end of the day, everyone just wants to see their kids to come home safely.
"No hurry that you're in, no place that you need to be is more important than a child's life,” said Luebbe.
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