NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — As the official back-to-school station, we are here to alert you that police are cracking down on drivers illegally passing school buses.
Newport News bus drivers have a front seat view of the danger.
“I have seen close calls and I’ve had to pull children back from the door,” bus driver Tracy Burrell said.
Drivers are illegally passing school buses, and Burrell has had enough.
“I just don’t want anybody’s child to get hurt," she said. "It could be your child, your grandchild. I just don’t want that to happen.”
Last year, Newport News Public Schools partnered with Bus Patrol to add stop-arm cameras to 340 buses. That company tracks drivers passing illegally.
Shay Coates, the NNPS director of transportation, said, “Once the stop-arm goes out, they record the stop and it goes to their vendors. Their vendor looks at it and if they think it’s deemed a violation, they send it to our police department.”
Burrell called the technology a lifesaver and said it makes her job easier.
“It takes off the pressure of us having to having to take the license plate number or memorize the license plate number,” she explained.
In three months -- from March 15, 2020, to June 18, 2020 -- over 2,900 drivers passed a school bus illegally in Newport News.
“As a bus driver, as a mom, as a grandma, I’m disappointed in the number,” Burrell said. “As a community, we can do better. As a community, we should do better, for the children. We need to do better.”
The data even surprised Newport News Police Chief, Steve Drew.
He said, “I figured that the numbers would be high, especially at the beginning but I was a little surprised when I saw the numbers and what they were.”
At $250 apiece, the fines have totaled more than $700,000. Chief Drew said the purpose of the technology is not to raise money.
“It’s really about safety, keeping the prized possession that we have, our students to get on the buses on and off to keep them safe,” he said.
Every time Burrell gets behind the wheel, she said that’s her promise to parents as well.
“Slow down. If you see the stop sign, stop. Two minutes of your day could save a life,” she said.
So far 2,900 people have gotten the message to slow down and don’t pass a school bus illegally. The greatest success of this program may be that no child has been injured.