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Despite Beloit Turner bus cameras, drivers still illegally passing

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TOWN OF BELOIT (WKOW) -- Getting on and off the school bus is scary sometimes for 11-year-old Alexys Hudson.

"A lot of people would go past the sign a lot," she said. "I just felt a little scared because if they went past the stop sign and if they were really close, they might have hit the bus or something."

Last winter, a Beloit mother captured video on her home security system showing a driver passing a stopped bus on the right. A few weeks before that, a man was ticketed for driving through the stop arm of a Beloit Turner bus, breaking it off.

Just this month, a 6-year-old girl was killed and her 4-year-old sister hurt in central Wisconsin after police say a man drove around a stopped bus and struck the girls.

"When people have complete disregard for children, which is essentially what we're saying if you're willing to pass a bus, I think that's a problem, and I think it deserves a citation," said Beloit Turner Superintendent Dennis McCarthy.

Beloit Turner school officials heard complaint after complaint from bus drivers, but in the first few months of 2019, Town of Beloit Police barely managed to issue about a dozen citations.

Then came the cameras.

"Your cameras don't lie," McCarthy said.

The district installed video cameras on the outside of three of its buses that ran the busiest routes, and the impact was immediate. Thirty-nine violations were recorded between April and June 2019. This school year, the district says at least 100 people have been captured on video passing buses where the stop arm is out and the red lights are flashing.

"I know a couple of drivers have questioned it, but we simply provide them the video, and there's no questions after that," McCarthy said.

But even with the cameras, people are still passing the buses at around 20 per month.

"Talking to some of those drivers, sometimes the thought process is, 'Well, the vehicle in front of me went, and the next vehicle went, so I thought it was okay for me to go,'" said Lt. Bryan Hasse of the Town of Beloit Police Department.

A number of the violations happen on Riverside Drive. Police suspect it may be because there's so many lanes -- but there isn't a median, which means if a bus stops with its stop sign out and lights flashing in any of the lanes, all of the lanes have to stop.

They're hoping increased awareness will clear up confusion drivers may have, but Beloit Turner officials say drivers have no excuse.

"By now, I think people should understand what the laws are," McCarthy said.

Now that they can issue the citations, Hasse says officials in Beloit are working as hard as they can to drive the number down -- fighting an uphill battle against an increasingly busy and distracting world.

"Maybe it falls on the state legislators at some point in time to look at increased fines or responsibility for those types of issues with distracted driving, or texting while driving," he said.

Still, both police and school officials are confident the cameras were the right option and that they're sending a message to the community to keep students safe or suffer the consequences.

School officials say while only three buses have cameras at the moment, the option to add cameras to more buses is still on the table.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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