MUSCATINE, Iowa — When it comes to people ignoring rules of the road regarding school buses, one Muscatine mom has had enough.
Since moving to Muscatine from Ohio last year, Kristina Olson said driving her own children and a friend’s child to their elementary schools has been an eye-opening experience.
Olson said she has witnessed area residents driving as though they have no regard for the fact that children are walking to school and boarding buses.
“I have seen the disrespect for school bus drivers and kids at bus stops,” said Olson. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Olson said area drivers run stop signs, slam on their brakes when they come up on school buses and turn right at red lights and at stop signs without stopping — even though school buses are stopped nearby and waiting for children.
“There’s got to be something we can do as a community,” said Olson, who’s decided to be part of the solution.
This week, Olson called Muscatine Community School District officials to tell officials what she’s seen. She also said she will photograph the license plates of offending drivers.
On Friday morning, Olson parked near the intersection of Roscoe Avenue and Dillaway Street near West Middle and McKinley Elementary schools to get photographs of a driver who she said often runs a stop sign as the bus driver waits for students to board. She was joined by this reporter who spent time observing drivers with Olson.
The driver came by moments after the bus pulled away and did not commit an offense. Olson took a photo of the vehicle’s license plate for future reference.
Donald Krings, transportation supervisor for the Muscatine Community School District, said he spoke with Olson and appreciates her vigilance.
“Any help is appreciated,” he said.
Krings said his bus drivers reported three Muscatine motorists last week to police for violating school bus safety laws. A fourth driver was pulled over by an
officer in an unmarked car.
The Muscatine Police could not be reached for comment by press time.
The price violators pay is not small.
In March, Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law the Keep Aware Driving: Youth Need School Safety Act, which increases the penalties for drivers who pass stopped school buses.
The legislation is also known as Kadyn’s Law, in memory of Kadyn Halverson, 7, who was hit by a pickup truck in 2011 while crossing the road to board her school bus.
DeWayne Hopkins, a part-time school bus driver in Muscatine, said he sees many people violating traffic laws, but he can’t always get their license plate numbers when he’s trying to make the safety of students his first priority.
“I see it multiple times a day,” said Hopkins, who’s also Muscatine’s mayor, noting that many motorists lack road safety education. “The thing that bothers me most is young men and women driving with a cell phone on their ear. I see it many times a day.”
Many Muscatine school bus drivers have a new weapon in stopping offenders, said Krings.
“Most route buses have cameras now,” said Krings. “I told the drivers to say the license plates numbers (of offending drivers) out loud to catch it on the audio feature of the communication system.”
Krings said stopping violators is an invaluable act for student safety.
“Eighty percent of school-bus related deaths occur when kids are hit by cars that don’t stop for a bus,” said Krings. “And buses are carrying the most precious cargo.”