Orlando mom calls for end to cars speeding past stopped school bus

Concerned mother wants district to move temporary bus stop, increase patrols

By Adrianna Iwasinski - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando mom Anna Price said she does everything she can to keep her kids safe, but that she can't say the same for drivers passing by the children's bus stop.

Her family lives along Fairbanks Avenue near Edgewater Drive, where Price says she keeps a close eye on them when they play in the front yard to prevent them from darting into traffic along Fairbanks Avenue.

Price said what she can't seem to stop is the slew of careless drivers passing by her 7-year-old daughter's stopped school bus every morning and afternoon.

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"This morning, there was a Jeep that drove by. The stop sign was out at the front of the bus, and it just kept on going," Price said. "He totally ignored the bus stop sign. I don't understand how anybody could miss that."

The school bus stop in question is located along the eastbound lane of Fairbanks Avenue between Edgewater Drive and I-4, right by the intersection of Coronado Road.

According to the Orange County Public School District, the new, temporary bus stop was put in at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, for kids who would normally walk to school. A district spokesperson confirms all the construction around the area created hazards to their walking route. 

Despite that, Price and other parents say their children are still facing hazards from cars speeding by their kids' stopped school bus. They shared cellphone video with News 6 of cars illegally driving past them while their kids are getting on and off the school bus. 

"We scream at them and yell at them to stop," said Sheri Taro, who has a son and two daughters get on and off at the new Fairbanks bus stop. 

"I mean, you're supposed to stop all the way across -- and people don't care. It is frustrating! It makes you mad," Taro said.

"Watching these cars not stop just makes me sick," Price said. "I would stop for your kid. That's just what you do."

Both Price and Taro said they have called the Orange County Sheriff's Office to get help making the stop safer but nothing has happened.

"When I spoke with the deputy, he said it could take up to two weeks," Price said. "I said, 'You realize it doesn't take two weeks to hit a kid.'"

Price said she also called the school district, but was put on hold and hung up on before she was able to talk to a representative.

News 6 investigator Adrianna Iwasinski staked out the bus stop for four days. The first day, she recorded three cars driving by the flashing lights and school bus stop arm. The next day wasn't any better, as she caught two more drivers on camera speeding right past the stopped school bus. On the third day, she used her cellphone to record video of four cars as they drove right past the stopped school bus. Only on day four did she witness all cars come to a complete stop in time.

"Even if you don't know if you should stop, err on the side of caution and just stop," Price said. "Just stop."

News 6 Traffic Safety expert Steven Montiero said at this particular intersection, all lanes of traffic must stop for the school bus, even those driving in the opposite lane of traffic.

"No matter what, two-lane roads, you have to stop; multi-lane road, have to stop," Montiero said.

Montiero confirms that failing to stop for a school bus could cost you a hefty fine.

"We're talking about $164 fine, multiple points on your driver's license and sometimes, the judge wants to see you in person," Montiero said.

Montiero said, according to Florida statute, the only time the opposite lane of traffic does not have to come to a halt for a stopped school bus is if there is a grassy or concrete median separating the lanes of traffic.

News 6 called officials with Orange County Public Schools and the Orange County Sheriff's Office about what Iwasinski witnessed and recorded.

Two days later, Price showed News 6 cellphone video she recorded, showing a white van blowing right by the bus as an Orange County deputy parked nearby was surveying the scene during the morning pickup.

She said deputies were back Friday morning monitoring and enforcing the traffic rules during the morning pickup.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office said it's putting extra patrols around the Fairbanks Avenue and Coronado Road bus stop location.

However, Taro said what she would really like to see is a better spot for the bus stop.

"I'd like to see them move it at least in the neighborhood. It’s a corner," Taro said. 

Price agreed more could be done.

"It's still the same intersection. It’s just in a safer location of the same intersection," Price said.

News 6 even shot cellphone video showing the school bus driver already turning into the neighborhood as part of her route.

When asked if the bus stop could be moved, the district replied by saying OCPS has more than 13,000 bus stops, and has approximately 885 buses travel more than 18.3M miles per year using more than 2.9M gallons of diesel fuel. Officials said that going off main roads into the communities has many other unintended impacts.  A spokesperson pointed out this particular bus stop provides ample visual lead time on the road for drivers to see the bus stop, as bus drivers turn on the amber lights 200 feet before arriving at the stop and then turn on the reds after stopping. A spokesperson with Orange County Public Schools said the Fairbanks stop is only a temporary stop until the construction is completed and a walking path opens.

We take a lot of time, thought and care in the selection of bus stops," said Lorena Arias, with Orange County Public Schools. “This bus stop meets all criteria under Florida statute. The safety of our students is our top priority and transportation is reviewing the concern."

Sara Au, who is also with Orange County Public Schools, explained some of the unintended impacts that would come from making changes to the temporary stop.

"In order to keep bus rides as short as practicable for students, arterial routing to schools is the accepted practice industry wide," Au said. "Arterial routing restricts bus operation to main roads and limits the number of stops. Going into communities not only lengthen bus rides, it also increases the risk of a crash for buses trying to reenter the main roads, which is potentially a serious crash into the side of the bus."

[MORE: Florida school buses required to have seat belts, but do kids use them?High School students sit on floor, in aisle of Orange County school bus]

Au said changing routes can add more pollutants into the air, put more miles on the buses and increase costs to maintain the buses. She also said many apartment complexes or private subdivisions do not want buses going into neighborhoods, as it adds wear and tear to their driveways. 

The district confirms drivers illegally passing school buses is a problem in Orange County, as well as across the nation. 

"Every year, our law enforcement partners remind drivers about traffic laws that pertain to school buses, especially around the back-to-school time frame and after the long breaks when school is about to resume," Au said. 

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