Monday, May 15, 2017

Bad boy, bad boy, what you goin' do when they come for you?

When you are moving and looking for houses, there are many things to consider. Is the house in good shape, is the neighborhood nice, and even if it is in a good school district. However, one that slipped my attention is where my kids would get onto the school bus. As we would later find out, it was at the street corner a hundred yards down our street where it intersects a more heavily trafficked (though still sparse compared to many) street. The other street is one of two roads leading to the entrance of a community college. Even this wouldn't have caused me to worry had I thought about it but as it turned out, the bus stops on the opposite side of the street and about 50 yards ahead is a blind hill blocking the view of oncoming traffic of seeing the bus and kids crossing the street to get on the bus. The speed limit was only 25 mph (now 35 mph, see below) and still plenty of room left at that speed to see the bus, react and slow down. However, cars regularly go zipping by at 50 mph and that makes things much tighter in terms of reaction times and stopping distances.

So over the years I have walked with my daughter every day out to the bus stop and have taught her to not only wait for the bus driver to signal her it is clear, but to listen for oncoming traffic. If she hears a car comes, she waits until it crests the hill and gets stopped. For the first couple years, we would have three or four cars a year drive by the stopped schoolbus with its stop arm extended and my daughter and I standing feet away. I tried taking a picture with my cellphone but by the time I got it out, got the app open and it focused, the car was too far for the phone to make out the license plate. I eventually got to the point where if a car seemed like it was going to run the stop sign on the bus, I would whip out my phone and point it at them. This always got them to hit the brakes hard, that is until today.

I've complained to the school bus company (independent contractor hired by the school) trying to get them to switch the route so my daughter can be picked up on our street which has very little traffic at all but haven't gotten any results. Last year our city purchased a "speed car" which takes photos of speeding cars and mails the owners tickets. I volunteered for the car to be parked right in my yard looking up at the blind hill where cars are regularly going 25 mph over the posted speed limit and causing some of this problem. The officer was sympathetic to the situation but for reasons he never would explain, he wouldn't park it there. I got the sense that they wanted to avoid the perception of a "speed trap" with the public. Instead they parked it on the other side of the hill where people can see it a half mile away and slow down while passing it and get back up to speed by the time they crest the hill. In the process of talking with the officer in a followup call, he noted that the speed limit at our intersection going west is 35 mph and going east only 25 mph and that he would correct that. That turned out to make both east and west speed limits 35 mph which has just increased the speed of the traffic.

So this morning the bus stopped and put out it's stop arm with lights on it and across the front of the bus and my daughter and I were standing eight feet away on the opposite side of the street. We both heard the sound of tires moving across the pavement at a high speed and looked up to the blind hill. A black pickup truck crested and although slowing down wasn't slowing down to the point where I thought he was going to stop. I whipped out my cellphone and pointed it at him and still he kept coming. Fortunately, cellphone technologies have changed. Now even with a lock screen, I can swipe up and get the camera app. Despite working fast, my first photo just barely caught the truck on the way past the bus but clearly showed the stop arm out and the lights on. Unfortunately the license was too blurry to read with certainty. However, I had the presence of mind to click a second picture as the truck sped off that clearly got the truck, make, model and license plate along with just the tail portion of the school bus. Thank god for modern technology with auto focus.

I have called the proper authorities giving them all the pertinent information along with the photos and the driver will be receiving a $400+ fine according to the police for their hurry to save one single minute that it takes for my daughter to get on the school bus. I really hope they learn their lesson.

However, all this has got me to thinking that perhaps it would just be easier if I had some sort of rig that held a Go-Pro camera that took continuous video in the direction I was facing. I don't know if they focus fast or well enough to work in this situation or not but since it would be on all the time, it might get them well before they reach the school bus and perhaps a longer time afterwards while getting the necessary proof in between those times.


Sol said...

Hi Ed, I found your blog from Kymber and Jams. I have an in car camera. Could you park your car on the road and have that film the road? We have huge trucks from a gravel pit zoom by our house, they splatter the school bus and children. There are no pavements/side walks in our village and the bus is necessary for the village children to get to school.

I always think, if it was the drivers children being pelted, would they be angry with the driver? Oh course they would. As a race, we are fast losing our compassion for others, all for the want of planning ahead and leaving the house on time. I hope they fine the driver. And keep fining them all, until everyone knows that it is a speed trap on the road. Good for you, for getting the picture.

kymber said...

i sometimes hate the world for stuff like this. i can offer no recommendations that do not include rifles. you need to contact your mayor, state legislator...teachers/school again? someone that will take this situation more seriously.

sending much love to you and yours! your friend,

Ed said...

Sol - I have thought about getting a dash cam for awhile now but haven't pulled the trigger. Since learning to just point my cellphone at on coming traffic, that has reduced the incidents to just once in the last two years and I caught that guy. If it were more, I think I would consider other options such as what you mentioned.

Kymber - I need one of those spike strips that can raise up out of the ground! I wonder if the city would give me a permit to install one of those.

Kelly said...

It amazes me how many people there are that ignore the laws regarding school buses and school zones. I'll never forget the car that whizzed by while my kids were waiting for the bus, killing one of our dogs and zooming on without stopping. (it was a big dog, so they couldn't have not known they'd hit something.... for all they knew it could have been a kid!)

I'm glad you were able to get the photos and notify the authorities. They deserve that fine!

sage said...

And when the buses are out early in the morning before light... Glad you were able to get a shot of the truck! Most places are pretty serious with those who ignore school bus signals.

Ed said...

Kelly - I don't get around much in the morning and afternoons when school buses are running and I'm amazed at how many times I see it happen. I often wonder if the police would take a dash mounted camera video as evidence.

Sage - The police officer I spoke with said the fine here starts at $400. That would be enough to catch my attention.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

Yah, I'm surprised after complaints by parents this is tolerated. Why they can't change their stopping point FOR THE SAFETY OF THE KIDS is beyond me. I bet it's very scary to stand there and hear the cars coming and worrying about your daughter going out to the bus. I wonder if you start calling every day that they might do something.
Glad you got the photo!

Vince said...

You need to go in and see the route of the bus in it's entirety. There is a point, notwithstanding the issue with your girl, that you are pushing water up-hill. Why can't the bus come down on your side for instance, meaning reversing the route. Why can't they cross into your street and do a U-iey.
I think trying to change behavior against the condition of the road is unlikely to work. People follow speed limits when they are seen to make sense.

Ed said...

Pumpkin Delight - One advantage is that it allows me to have some father-daughter time every morning which I cherish, even though my daughter is more than able to cross the road without my help.

Vince - The bus does go by earlier heading the other direction and thus the doors are the side of the street where my daughter stands, but getting on earlier would mean that she has a lot longer bus ride to school and it might mean that dad would suddenly be uncool to be seen with waiting for the bus. Like I mentioned above, I like the father-daughter time it provides.