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Ohio County officials: Drivers still ignoring stopped buses

October 13, 2011
By HEATHER ZIEGLER Associate City Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - A 10-year-old Ohio County school student barely missed being struck by a car after the vehicle blew past a school bus unloading students in the 1200 block of National Road on Tuesday. Despite warnings, flashing red lights and repeated appeals to the public, some members of the driving public continue to disregard the laws involving stopped school buses as they load and unload students. And Gary Kestner is livid.

Kestner, transportation director for Ohio County Schools, said Tuesday's near miss was just one of dozens of near tragic violations that his drivers and students have experienced in recent weeks.

"By the grace of God our bus driver was able to lay on the horn to get the girl's attention to stop so she wouldn't be hit. I'm sure the bus driver had white knuckles as he watched the vehicle approaching the bus. He had no way of knowing that vehicle was not going to stop. He did the right thing and blew that horn with both hands ... all the while he was yelling at her (the student) to stop in her tracks," Kestner said.

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Bus drivers are not permitted to leave their buses when students are aboard.

The student was not injured, however the incident left quite a few people angry and shaken. "The bus driver, Todd Porter, is an excellent driver and I know this shook him up. It was the worst 10 seconds of his day," Kestner added.

The entire incident was caught on tape via onboard video cameras on the school bus. The tape has been turned over to the Wheeling Police Department and charges are expected to be filed against the driver of the vehicle.

Police were able to obtain the license plate number of the offending vehicle from the video tape that provides several angles of the incident.

Tuesday's incident occurred on National Road near Byrd and Linden avenues which also is a school zone near St. Michael Parish School.

Kestner said students are told that if the bus driver blows the horn, they need to stop wherever they are. He is asking parents to reinforce the school bus safety rules.

"It's a shame, but the kids need to know how to survive outside the school bus," Kestner commented. "We are asking parents to please teach their kids how to be road savvy."

Kestner said his drivers continue to experience motorists who drive past school buses despite the buses displaying the flashing red lights and the front safety arms extended in front of the buses.

"It's happening right in the heart of a school zone. We get a lot of these close calls on National Road in Woodsdale. It happens to this bus driver nearly every day," Kestner noted. "We've tried everything we know to inform the public and when we catch them some will say 'I didn't see the bus.' How can you miss a 40-foot-long yellow Hostess Twinkie with flashing lights all over it? I just don't get it."

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