KNOXVILLE (WATE) - In the nearly three years since a deadly wreck claimed the lives of two Knox County students and a teacher's aide, there has been a lot of discussion about bus safety. A study last year showed there were too many wrecks and drivers weren't as well-trained or well-paid as they should be.
There has also been debate about school bus seat belts, but little of this discussion has touched on other drivers on the road. Ellie Whitesell, mother of two Knox County students, said she continues to witness drivers not stopping for the school bus at her children's bus stop.
"I watched it happen the other day, the woman was on her cell phone, didn't pay a lick of attention, just ran right through. Luckily, my son wasn't quite off the school bus yet," said Whitesell.
Russ Oaks, Chief Operating Officer for Knox County Schools said this continues to be a serious problem putting children's lives at risk.
"It happens way to often. It should never happen," said Oaks. "You can't be in such a hurry you have to run a school bus stop sign. No one should be in that big of a rush."
Oaks said in the past two weeks, bus drivers have reported more than 60 instances where motorists have driven past the stop arm on the bus and in two cases cars hit the buses ripping off the stop sign.
"We've put in place driver training programs, assessment programs, new camera systems, GPS systems. We're doing everything we can to make our school bus system as safe as possible, now we need drivers the public motorists to do their part," said Oaks.
Oaks said people need to remember if the flashing lights are on and the bus stop sign is out, you need to stop.
"People need to be aware when you see a yellow bus you need to be concerned there's a child around it somewhere," said Oaks.
Oaks said the school system is working alongside law enforcement and bus drivers to help report these situations in hopes of making an impact. The school system is also working on a campaign for National School Bus Safety Week that will focus on the theme "Stop on Red," hoping to reach out to more drivers to slow down and pay attention.
There are ways the public can report drivers who are passing buses or not stopping when they should. There is an online school bus concern form you can fill out. You can also call the Transportation Department's service line at (865) 594-1550
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