Kids at bus stops keep getting hit and killed. A petition calls on White House to act

Do you know when to stop for a school bus?

Sgt. James Prouty of the Washington State Patrol explains when you must stop for a school bus.
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Sgt. James Prouty of the Washington State Patrol explains when you must stop for a school bus.

After several children were killed or injured in a string of accidents caused by drivers plowing through school bus stops in recent weeks, a petition to the White House is urging the federal government to act.

The petition, hosted on the White House’s “We The People” platform, is called “Make bus stop safety a federal law.” It was created on October 31, almost immediately after three children were killed when a driver slammed into them as they waited for their bus in Fulton County, Indiana.

“Children are being injured or killed due to people running the alternating reds on school (buses),” the petition reads. “Individual state laws are largely ineffective and typically have no significant penalty. We call upon our President and Congress to act by signing legislation that will keep our children safe by instituting severe penalties on (people) who choose to violate the red lights on a bus such as 30 days in jail, 90 day (driver’s license) suspension, 12 points on license and a mandatory minimum fine of $5000.00 for the first offense. This is the least we the American voters will accept.”

The petition gained nearly 3,000 signatures by Monday morning. If it reaches its goal of 100,000, the White House is obligated to issue a response within 60 days.

The petition comes after crashes injured or killed children across the U.S. in a bloody week from late October to early November. In Indiana, two 6-year-old twins and their 9-year-old sister were killed when a driver ran into them, and another child was seriously injured, McClatchy previously reported.

A Marietta, Miss., man was charged after police say he hit a 9-year-old child trying to board a school bus, WCBI reported. In Tampa, Fla., five children were struck by a car at a bus stop, some of whom received serious (though non life-threatening) injuries, NBC News reported. And in Franklin Township, Penn., a 7-year-old boy was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver when the boy’s school bus driver found his body at the bus stop, ABC News reported.

A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that from 2006 to 2015, 102 school-aged pedestrians were killed in school transportation accidents, about 37 of them caused by a vehicle other than the school bus.

“The greatest risk to your child is not riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one,” the NHTSA says on its website. School bus laws vary between states, but most generally forbid drivers from passing a school bus while it is stopped and flashing warning lights are in use.

This can depend on where the bus is stopped, however: for example, some states have laws saying cars do not have to stop on a divided highway if the bus is on the other side of the roadway, according to the NHTSA.

Enforcement is difficult, however, and the NHTSA says “passing a stopped school bus with red lights flashing, illegal in all 50 States, was a serious and widespread problem” when it surveyed bus drivers.

On social media, many supported the idea behind the petition, while others said it seemed unnecessary and instead urged enforcement of current laws.

A video released by a South Carolina school district shows a boy falling out of a moving school bus on April 7, 2017, after the side emergency door came open. The driver had no idea that the boy had fallen until the children started screaming for