“It was so fast, I couldn’t even think about it,” said Ashley DuPont about her son Payton nearly being hit by a motorist on Highway 5.
DuPont, of Marceline has had two close-calls with distracted drivers nearly hitting her child while he’s trying to get off the bus.
After starting school this past August, Payton DuPont has nearly been struck twice by passing motorists on Highway 5. Ashley DuPont, her husband and Payton live off Highway 5 in Marceline.
The first close-call happened in early December of 2017. The second incident was earlier this month.
According to DuPont, the poor driving is a daily issue.
“I wait for Payton everyday when he gets off the bus,” DuPont said. “I see close-calls everyday.”
What is the cause of these near misses with school buses and other drivers? Dupont says distracted drivers are to blame.
“I think people need to put their phones down,” DuPont said. “I can’t even put into words how scary it is.”
According to Marceline Police Chief Bob Donelson, he doesn’t want anymore incidents with buses.
“We now have a zero-tolerance policy for people disobeying the bus stop sign rules,” Donelson said. “The biggest problem we’re having are [motorists] trying to beat the school bus before they make a stop.”
“[Drivers] needs to be attentive to everything happening around them,” Donelson said. “Drivers need to be even more careful when buses are out.”
It is Missouri law for school buses to put on yellow flashers signalling an imminent stop, within 500 feet of the stop. Then, the school bus will extend a stop sign and activate red flashers signalling for drivers to stop to allow people to get on, or off the bus. Drivers on a two-lane road, such as Highway 5, must stop in both directions to allow for safe crossing off the roadway.
According to Marceline transportation supervisor Tom Lodder, buses will stay stopped to make sure students can cross the road safely.
“If it looks like someone isn’t going to stop, we do everything we can do to make sure everyone is safe,” Lodder said. “One hundred percent, the most important thing for us is safety.”
Donelson, Lodder and MoDOT traffic engineer Bryce Acton agree distracted driving is bad for everyone on the road. Acton was brought to Marceline by a call from DuPont asking if anything could be done to make Highway 5 safer for her son and motorists.
MoDOT will place a ‘school bus stop’ sign near a bus stop, if the sight-distance by motorists is less than 600 feet from the stop. In both directions from DuPont’s house, the sight-distance was much greater than 600 feet, too large to put up a sign.
Acton says MoDOT is trying to curb distracted driving habits.
“Currently we are running the ‘buckle up, phone down,’ campaign,” Acton said. “The campaign challenges drivers to turn their phone off and pay more attention to the road.”
“Phones are the biggest distraction to motorists,” Acton said.
According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, more than 3,400 casualties were reported in 2016 from distracted driving.
DuPont says she will take matters into her own hands, if the incidents continue.
“If this happens again, Payton won’t be allowed to ride the bus,” DuPont said.
According to DuPont, Payton has looked forward to riding the bus well before starting school in 2017. Payton will start first grade this August.