McKINNEY — Hundreds of miles are logged every day as bus drivers take students to and from school. For parents, that can be an anxious time.
The same can be said for a school bus driver... especially when other motorists ignore the law that mandates a full stop when the bus is picking up or discharging its precious cargo.
"It was the number one complaint," said McKinney Independent School District spokesman Cody Cunningham. "We're averaging about 20 drive-arounds a day... in some cases those are near-misses with our students."
We documented the scofflaws with our own cameras.
At one stop, drivers going the opposite way on Highway 380 sped right through. Even worse, we saw one driver headed in the same direction drive around the stop sign while the bus was halted.
"Some days there could be nobody who does it; some days there could be five to 10," said bus driver Bobbi Gutierrez. "Only takes one."
The McKinney ISD said motorists ignored school bus stop signs at least 3,500 times last year, and that's a conservative estimate. So the district is currently piloting a hopeful fix that would be a first in Texas: A stop-arm six feet long extending from the driver's side of the bus.
The extension reaches over into the next lane with more lights and more signs.
"So far, in the first three weeks we've been using them, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive," Cunningham said.
We put our cameras on a bus with an extended arm on a very busy Highway 380. The results were better compared to the shorter signs, but there were still drivers who raced through and barely missed hitting that sign. The district is aware of the possibility of the extended warning sign hitting other vehicles.
Cunningham said they have identified which areas that can adequately accommodate the extended stop sign arms. He also said the drivers who are testing the arms have been instructed to position their buses to avoid major obstructions on the roadway.
The district is currently in the pilot phase of the project. If the test proves successful, McKinney ISD plans to have as many as 40 buses fitted with the more foreceful warnings by the beginning of the next school year.