School buses experience close calls on Brazos County roads

“It’s got to stop before something bad happens.”
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 10:22 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Officials with the Bryan Independent School District are urging drivers to use extra caution around school buses on Brazos County roads.

According to a 2019 survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), school buses are passed illegally more than 95,000 times a day. Due to the pandemic, the NASDPTS did not conduct surveys in 2020 or 2021.

More than 9,000 stop-arm violations happen in Texas daily, including in the Brazos Valley.

Bryan ISD Director of Transportation Warren Lanphier says these incidents are becoming more frequent and dangerous.

“Recently, we’ve had a number of close calls. It seems to be increasing this school year. We’ve had a number of them out on Highway 21, especially going towards Madisonville,” said Lanphier. “We’ve had cars actually drive in the emergency lane to go around buses while kids were loading on the bus. We’ve had situations where our buses have been clipped by semis. We’ve been rear-ended by large trucks.”

“We’ve had near-catastrophic situations that could have resulted in serious injuries or fatalities,” said Lanphier.

Bryan ISD released a video from August that shows a student narrowly making it onto her morning bus as a car speeds by in the emergency lane. Incidents like these keep bus drivers like Katheryn Baker on edge.

“It takes three to five minutes to pick up and load our kids,” said Baker. “It’s just three minutes. We’ve all been late to work before, and if it means the difference between saving a kid’s life or taking a kid’s life, that three to five minutes is worth it.”

Baker’s bus was hit from behind back in August on Highway 21. There were no injuries among the 21 students on board the bus or the bus driver. She also says these incidents are happening more often.

“Honestly, on Highway 21, that’s probably one of our roughest areas. I do have about five stops on Highway 21 and it happens almost daily,” said Baker. “It happens a lot more than you would think. I think a lot of it’s just drivers distracted, and they’re not seeing us stopped. They’re not paying attention. It’s got to stop before something bad happens.

Lanphier says these close-call situations have a lasting effect on students, drivers, and parents.

“When you get rear-ended by a semi-truck that’s going 50 or 60 or 70 miles per hour, or a pickup truck, or whatever the case may be, you know that your life was very nearly taken that day,” said Lanphier.

“It’s difficult. When I have to go out to one of these accidents or to review one of these videos, I see the toll it takes on my employees, and I want to do everything I can to try to help them come back from those incidents and be stronger,” said Lanphier.

Lanphier is calling on state lawmakers to make penalties for passing stopped school buses harsher.

“I believe that this is an important matter, and that is getting worse and more attention should be paid to this,” said Lanphier. “I would encourage our citizens here locally to contact our state representatives to get more attention paid to the laws that go towards stopping these violations.”

“We should have increased fines for stop-arm violators. We can get stop-arm cameras put on our buses,” said Lanphier. “I’m sure there are lots of things that could be done to help mitigate this because there’s just too much of it going on.”

Bryan ISD is working to equip all of its buses with a Guardian Angel Lighting System. The system activates when the bus driver makes a stop and opens the door. The light creates a path for students to walk in. Bryan ISD hopes this device will increase visibility during early morning and evening pickups.

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