Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 19
 
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
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Getting on the School Bus Isn’t Always as Safe and Simple as It Should Be

Ellen Gilbert

Taking the bus to and from school wouldn’t strike most people as a particularly harrowing experience. For kids, talking, laughing, and bumping along before the actual school day starts is usually a happy routine. At the bus stop, parents, coffee cups in hand, catch up with neighbors, and look forward to attending to the day ahead.

All that may go by the wayside, however, when boarding the bus requires crossing a busy street, and motorists insist on driving past the stopped bus, often at a fast clip.

The bus stop at the intersection of Mt. Lucas Road and Stuart Road East, where children from four families board, is a case in point. For the last several years, a series of near-misses with drivers who failed to stop for the school bus’s blinking red light and stop sign has made for jittery mornings.

An incident three-and-a-half years ago in which a parent was almost hit began a multi-family quest to get the site of the bus stop changed to the near side of the street. (The families have requested that their names not be used in this article.)

School years came and went, and so did the cars: last fall one quick-acting mom was able to get the license plate number of one reckless motorist, who pleaded guilty when charges were brought against her. Once again, parents hoped that a bus stop change would be forthcoming.

The stop remained, but instances of cars whizzing past the stopped bus happened “at least five more times,” according to another mom who finally took things in hand several weeks ago when the situation moved to what she described as “a different level.”

“It was really blatant,” she said. “My daughter and I stepped off the curb to cross, but the car kept coming.” They waved, and the bus driver honked, all to no avail. Like the other mom, she got the car’s license plate number and pressed charges and, once again, a driver, claiming to have been “distracted,” pleaded guilty in the presence of the bus driver who had come to court to corroborate the charges. This proved to be the second time this individual was found guilty of passing a stopped school bus, and 15 days of community service was added to the fine she had to pay.

For several days after the incident was reported, a police presence each morning provided some measure of reassurance. “The police department was incredibly helpful in resolving this problem and addressing the potential danger,” said the second mom. “Littlebrook principal Anna Kosek, school district transportation office head Marilyn Kothe, Superintendant Judy Wilson, and bus driver Tammy Koller, were also very interested and proactive in resolving the problem and making a change for us.”

The change did come, “despite the fact that there are only eight weeks of school left,” observed the grateful parent. Children on Stuart Road East now board the bus going to school, and disembark coming home, on the side of the street where they live. “I was afraid that someone was going to have to die before things were changed,” said the mom.

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