May 21, 2014 - BY LAURA DUCHARME
Special to the Clarkston News
For the third year in a row, Clarkston school busdrivers counted cars ignoring their flashing red lights while stopped. The count – 85, about the same as in previous years.
"This has been an ongoing problem," said Kevin Bickerstaff, director of transportation. "People don't understand the rules of the road and it is very dangerous."
Bus driver Doug Miller said cars pass his bus while he is stopped everyday, and has seen an accident happen because of cars not paying attention.
"I saw an accident in the oncoming traffic," said Miller. "A motorcycle flew by me and a cop car caught him. Cars in the oncoming traffic got so distracted by the cop car and motorcycle, they didn't see the cars in front of them stopped because of my bus, and hit the back of the cars in front of them."
Driver Judy Schornak said cars pass her bus while it is stopped often.
"A few years ago a kid was crossing the road to the bus," said Schornak. "A car in on-coming traffic wasn't watching. If the kid wasn't paying attention he would've been hit."
Drivers caught disregarding bus flashing lights get up to three points on their license and $255 fine. The penalty for passing a bus while a crossing guard is out with stop sign up is three points and $265 fine.
This year's count was on May 1.Bus drivers placed check marks indicating morning, afternoon, right side, left side, front or rear pass on a chart to indicate when and where cars were passing.
"On a normal day, drivers can complete a form that requires date, time of complaint, location of offense, color of vehicle, license number and complete diagram of what happened along with directions of the vehicle," said Bickerstaff. "We have citizens phone us on occasion with plate numbers. A complaint form will be completed and sent to our liaison deputy."
Liaison deputy Kim Potts said can request officers sit at certain points in town while buses are picking up and dropping off children to catch people who speed pass the buses.
"I caught a guy one time and people were very happy that I got him," said Potts. "He just flew by."
When they do catch people, violators tend to deny they did not stop or say the lights were yellow, she said.
"It means caution and prepare to stop," said Potts. "Yellow lights tell the driver to prepare to stop because the lights will be red soon."
"Don't try to accelerate at yellow lights," she said. "It's only a few minutes of waiting at the red light."
Michigan law requires drivers to stop no closer than 20 feet from a bus when it is stopped and has its red lights flashing.