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May 16, 2011  |   Comments (13)   |   Post a comment

Bus-passing fatality spurs further safety efforts

This diagram from the Iowa State Patrol illustrates an accident last week in which a 7-year-old was fatally struck by a pickup truck as she was crossing the road to board her school bus. The girl was thrown off of the road.

This diagram from the Iowa State Patrol illustrates an accident last week in which a 7-year-old was fatally struck by a pickup truck as she was crossing the road to board her school bus. The girl was thrown off of the road.

KENSETT, Iowa — A hit-and-run accident that killed a 7-year-old student last week has elevated efforts to prevent school bus stop-arm running incidents.

The Iowa State Patrol reported that on Tuesday morning, Kadyn Halverson of rural Kensett was walking across a road to board her school bus, which was stopped in the northbound lane with its lights flashing and stop arm out. A southbound pickup truck failed to stop and struck the girl.

Halverson, a student in the Northwood-Kensett Community School District, was thrown off of the road. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the pickup fled but was apprehended a short time later, police said. Aaron Gunderson, 31, was taken into custody for questioning and later released. Charges against Gunderson were pending the results of the processing of evidence.

The accident added urgency to a statewide survey of stop-arm violations, which was already scheduled for the following day. Max Christensen, executive officer of school transportation at the Iowa Department of Education, told SBF that although the results of the survey had not yet been finalized, he believes that the illegal bus-passing incidents are on the rise.

"Unfortunately, a large percentage of the reported violations never get prosecuted," Christensen said.

H. Carroll Van Hove, a school bus driver for North Iowa Community School in Buffalo Center, shared his experience with the problem in a note to Christensen.

"At least once a week, and even two or three times a week, someone passes [my] bus illegally while the bus is stopped, red lights [are] flashing and stop signs are fully extended," Van Hove wrote. "Many times, the driver is on the cell phone and not paying a bit of attention. ... I am really concerned about this."

After the Tuesday accident, Christensen wrote to pupil transportation officials across the state about the need to "redouble our efforts" to keep kids safe on and off the bus.

"Please be sure that your drivers are aware of the traffic around the buses when the students are in the vulnerable positions outside the bus," Christensen wrote. "Be sure your drivers are giving their students a signal to indicate when it’s OK to cross the road to get to and from the bus. Also, be sure those pre-trips [inspections] are being done to ensure all warning lights and stop arms are working."

Christensen told SBF that he spoke to transportation directors from several school districts, and they decided to form a state task force to work on more ways to fight the stop-arm running problem. He said that efforts may include additional training for drivers and students, production of public service announcements, and working with law enforcement and judicial entities to bring more attention to the problem and put more "bite" into the current stop-arm law. Another idea is to have a standardized crossing signal for the whole state.

"Losing one is too many," Christensen said of the Tuesday accident. "It’s pretty devastating all the way around."


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Read more about: driver training, fatalities, school bus stops, stop arm running/illegal passing

Ann - If you look at the police diagram carefully I think what you will find is that the "intersection" that you think the bus is in the middle of is actually the point where a private residence drive (left, as indicated with an address) and a field entrance (right side) meet the roadway. Otherwise the road-edge-lines would not continue and they would curve around to created the road-edge lines of the intersecting roadway - trying to make a private drive not look like an actual roadway/highway, can be difficult on technical collision diagrams. Collision diagrams are sometimes misleading due to the fact that the investigator may not be an artist and the scale is, almost without exception, out of whack.

Brad    |    Mar 26, 2012 02:34 PM

According to the police diagram this bus is not making a LEGAL stop since the front end is in the intersection! Stop 200 FEET from a roadway unless otherwise approved by the district or supervisor (that's the law), and if that's the case, the bus should be stopped 50 feet back. Driver's make improper and illegal stops all the time, and in doing so risk the lives of children. It makes me sick. I've given up jobs as a driver because the Transportation Supervisor was an uninformed moron that ordered me to do something stupid and illegal to appease a parent. Not on my watch.

Ann    |    Aug 03, 2011 09:34 PM

Get off my butt and cross the kids?? WHAT??? And who praytell is going to watch the kids on the bus as I am doing this? I don't think so!! Also I do have a outside camera and it still does not help!! You turn them in and NEVER hear anything!! They still run arms AND expect you to wait, with me stopped and ready to put stop arm out. I could be sitting there for 5 minutes. Which I realize is not alot of time by most peoples standards, but my mine, it is alot on a school bus schedule. I also agree with Sandy Paris, the cops do just sit and watch. Kinda like the new phone law about not texting or using phones in school zones. Thats like a big joke around here!! See it everyday!! The law is as only good as the people who enforce it!! BUT see what happens if I have just a head light out!! OMG!! Its crazy!! Not to mention all the semi drivers out there that I see on their phone!! The solution......I don't know what....I just try to do my best everyday and pray no one gets hurt. Because nothing ever seems to change and they just wait to hammer you.

Darla Dixon    |    May 21, 2011 01:16 PM

I think there should be more information given every day about the dangers of school bus stopping laws, ie: TV, DURING PRIME TIME TV WATCHING, RADIO AND ON PUBLIC TRANSIT BUSES, TRUCKS, ETC.) Also a stiffer fine if you are taklking or texting at the time of the accident, license suspended for thirty days first offense, increase it for repeat offenders. If someone is killed because of the above mentioned activities their lincense should be permantely suspended. Former school bus driver and parent of children who rode on them.

Laura Johnson    |    May 18, 2011 09:46 AM

yeah - my typing in below average...... but you get my point.

Abject    |    May 18, 2011 08:05 AM

The driver can only do so much. 99% of Most drivers ARE NOT trained 100% to handle a bus full of kids, drive teh bus safely and now you add getting of it and helping the other kids/ You and your state is crazy. You cannot take the individual respondsibility of all the drivers on the roads ofyour route and place that on the driver. it is stupid..... unless you get up at 3am to run the route to get them there by 8am or maybe you only run 5 kids per route. individuals must be accounted for while the school do thier best to cover all aspects of better safety..... but that policy is not smart imo. the driver then is going to be the one sued if the drunk, who is texting, come through anyways and kills a kids. what is better?... maybe?. 1) All ready mentioned but could the bus have picked the kid up on the return route (Assuming that was possible). I had to do this three times this year: tell the parents, kids, and school I was going to only pick the new kids up - as I knew I could get them on the return route - loading on the same side and not having to have them cross the street. 2) I also think we need external camreas like what I had on my patrol vehilce in the military. this would allow video of those violating the passing law and the cops could then go atfer them hopefully. I cannot drive and hold a camera and if in cali cross the kids (Is this only in fair wether? ;-). 3) I would like a natinoal modification of the California law with cameras to boot, where you have to certified driver on the bus..... on eot drive and the other to help cros the kids and maintain disipline of the students while the bus is in motion. BUT - that takes money..... and even in death too many att greedy with giving up moe via taxes. so who knows. I know in my world of reality, driving a bus and dealing with the kids is a twice a day battle you "hope" you win as someone is always acting up. I can bet solid money that everywhere in California, at sometime, where they are walk

Abject    |    May 18, 2011 08:03 AM

GREAT Idea So.Cal Bus that I have to get off the bus to cross all my riders, I have 72 other children on the bus UN-supervised. I suppose I will be held accountable if one of them jumps off the bus and happens to get hurt. Wake up! I have been driving for 30 years and have seen so many drivers that should not be behind the wheel of anything much less a school bus. Add to the mix, drivers that seem to be issued licenses from cracker jack boxes and the whole world has gone nutts. I agree that passing stopped school buses need to have a cut and dry sentence. Here in my state, if the person that the vehicle belongs to isn't the one driving, they just earned a free pass to do it again.

Annette    |    May 18, 2011 07:23 AM

This is why Cali is ahead of the rest. We cross our students. The students on your bus are safe. Why do you worry about them! The students outside your buses are the ones who need your care and concern. You are trained to control the students on your bus. NOW take care of the ones outside of your bus. How many more do you have to loose to figure this out! Sad sad sad.

Susan    |    May 18, 2011 07:04 AM

How can a driver with a bus load of kids get off the bus to walk the child across the street. It was not the driver's fault. It was the guy on the cell phone. Here in Ohio we try to only pick up on the right side of the street unless it is a one way. I know on some routes its impossible to do that. Wtih all the cuts schools are having to make they can't afford bus riders to get off the bus and walk the child across. California schools must give there drivers alot more time to do there bus route if they can get off there bus and walk there kids across the street.

Debbie    |    May 18, 2011 05:17 AM

This is not just happening in Iowa, it is a national problem and it needs to be addressed. I was a safety supervisor for a national school bus company and have seen many in the state in which I reside. In my first year as a driver, I had three that I turned in, they got ticket, I was to go to court, and the next thing I know is they dismissed it. What an outrage. Here we have children like Kadyn being hit and killed senselessly. The fine and time in jail should be equal to that of a DWI offender.

Brad Rogers    |    May 17, 2011 03:57 PM

We have Police Officers who sit at our schools and watch this type of thing happen but doesn't do anything about it. I would love to rally to change the laws to alot more strict for these violations. I have that about this for 2 years but never had any idea how to do it. I was told by an Officer that it is our word against theirs with thiss type of attitude by Officers and the way people drive our children are not safe at all. I always make sure the cars around me are stopped before my children load or unload I also always knows who is around me in case of a child abuctions that happens way to often as well.

Sandy Paris    |    May 17, 2011 03:45 PM

My 12 year old daughter was killed at her bus stop June 1, 2010. Since then I have been campaigning for more safety measures for school bus stops. The school districts rely solely on the bus and its stop arm for safety, and it is not enough. Bus riding children deserve the same protection that walking students have. School zone(reduced speedlimit) Signs or crossing guards, anything! How they think a young child standing beside a busy road waiting for the bus is safe is beyond me!!! join our campaign to make school bus stops safer!

Donald Mair    |    May 17, 2011 10:17 AM

the problem should be a freaking FEDERAL LAW that ALL school bus drivers GET OFF THEIR BUTTS AND CROSS KIDS!!!!!!!! We do it here, why doesn't everybody else do it?????? In my humble opinion....this is why California has a ultra low fatality concerning this issue.

SoCal Bus Driver    |    May 17, 2011 09:04 AM

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