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Joplin drivers not paying attention to school bus stop signs - KOAM TV 7

Joplin drivers not paying attention to school bus stop signs is a growing problem

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Joplin school officials say this school year there has already been at least two close calls of cars almost hitting students.

Because of ongoing tornado recovery efforts, there are more miles and more stops for school buses in and around Joplin.  Some drivers may not be used to a new bus stop along a busy road.

Drivers are required to stop once a school bus sign has been extended.  This applies to motorists on a two lane road.  But on a four lane road, only the cars on the same side as the bus must stop.

There's a total of 96 school buses covering about 750,000 miles every school year.

"Bus drivers are driving a $100,000 vehicle that weighs about 28,000 pounds," says Joplin Schools Transportation Director David Pettit.

While the bus is heavy and expensive, its cargo is priceless.

"You're talking kindergarten through 12th grade, and your younger students, especially, aren't always looking for traffic," says Pettit.

School district officials say they never try to put bus stops on busy streets and they try to put the bus stops on the same side of the street where the students live.  But sometimes busy streets are unavoidable.

Students are told to always cross at the front of the bus.  A 10 foot bar gives the bus driver enough space to see the students cross.  Students are told to look to the bus driver for a "thumbs up" and the bus driver tries to make sure it's clear for the students to cross.

It should be safe to cross at this time but it doesn't always work out that way.

"Somebody who is either past the bus or is coming towards the bus and has not stopped - I have at least one a day," says Pettit.

"Cell phones are a big distraction," says Joplin Police Department Corporal Chuck Niess.

Bus drivers take note of the violator's license plate and driver's description.

"We're probably seeing more people run our stop arms than we did in the past but I also think we're doing a better job of reporting those, as well," says Pettit.

Ticketed drivers get a misdemeanor.

"It could be anywhere from $112 to $500," says Corporal Niess.

Joplin Schools officials say more than 90% of the people caught not stopping for school buses were convicted in court.

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