That’s how long the stop sign mounted on a Storer minibus was out on Glenwood Drive as the driver picked up a special-needs student Tuesday morning.
Vera Keane thinks a child’s safety is worth a 48-second wait. Apparently, not everyone does, or doesn’t even give it thought.
Tuesday, one driver in the opposite lane went past without stopping. A second stopped, but then continued past after maybe 30 seconds.
That’s nothing compared to what happened Friday, said Keane, mom to two special-needs daughters, ages 9 and 10, who are picked up by separate buses on Glenwood.
That morning, a pickup truck driver on the residential street in Modesto began honking and shouting, Keane said. He wasn’t first in line of a few stopped vehicles, or perhaps would have just kept going.
She posted on the Yo Knows Modesto page on Facebook what happened next, when the stop sign was retracted. “As the cars begin to drive past the bus, this gentleman ... very loosely using the term, decides to slow down enough to yell into the driver’s window, ‘People have to get to f---ing work ya know!’ Classy, I know. He yells INTO A SPECIAL NEEDS BUS full of mentally challenged children!”
At least the pickup driver waited. Not all do, said Keane and other parents and neighbors, who’ve seen impatient drivers simply go around other waiting vehicles.
Glenwood, a half-mile street that connects Carver and Tully roads, is home to at least three families that have special-needs children who ride minibuses.
Catrina Waag-Haggatt, a neighbor a few doors down from Keane, has lived on the street only six months but has seen drivers “fly” down the connector street, not stop for the buses, honk and curse. Not stopping is “a very big no-no, to put children — especially children who are special needs — at risk.”
Her little boy, she said, has autism, ADHD and impulsivity and oppositional defiant disorders, she said. “My child is unpredictable,” Waag-Haggatt said. “If he gets startled or disturbed, he may bolt” into the street.
That’s why the stop sign is out. Children “could get really hurt, or killed” if drivers aren’t careful, she said.
Mary Uribe, who lives across the street from the Keanes, has an 11-year-old special-needs great-grandson who is picked up not long after Vera Keane’s daughters. A lot of drivers “don’t stop, or they stop and then go again. They see there’s buses but don’t care. They figure they’ve stopped, so they go again.”
LaTamera Carpenter, an instructor and driver with Storer Transportation Service, said she and her colleagues encounter drivers every day who don’t slow or stop.
“We have tons of drivers that come in and complain about certain areas where they’re encountering it,” she said Tuesday. “Usually, if they can, we tell them to try to catch the license plate, because the CHP has a form we fill out and send in.” Often, though, the vehicles are gone before a bus driver can get that information.
Driver aggression — foul language and gestures — happens far less often, Carpenter said, “but, yes, that does happen. I don’t know if they think we’re purposely trying to stop them from going where they need to go, or what.”
Carpenter drives a full-size, 40-foot bus, she said, and often escorts children across streets. She’s almost been struck by impatient drivers. “It’s frustrating because as a school bus driver, my top priority is to get kids safely (to school and back home again). Drivers like that expect you to change your criteria to fit what they want.”
In some cases, it appears drivers simply don’t know what the traffic law is regarding school buses with their lights flashing and stop signs extended. Drivers who pull up behind buses seem more likely to stop than those in the oncoming lane, Carpenter said.
But Sgt. Jerry Ramar, with the Modesto Police Department, said the law is simple, especially on a two-lane neighborhood street. When the sign is out and the lights are flashing, “that means you stop, and stay stopped, until they’re turned off,” he said.
Drivers have to assume children are going to cross the street. “So that’s an absolute stop — there’s no two ways about it,” Ramar said. “And it’s not just for the cars coming up behind, it’s for the cars coming at the school bus from the front.”
There are some exceptions, such as a divided highway, like most of Briggsmore Avenue is considered, he said. And wider roads such as Coffee Road and McHenry Avenue, which have two or three lanes each way. In those cases, Ramar said, traffic in the opposite lanes does not have to stop.
“But on the smaller roads,” he said, “you have to anticipate that the children are going to cross to get to their houses.”