Local schools stress safety at bus stops

By Josh Sigler

An unthinkable tragedy took place in rural Fulton County on Oct. 30.

Three children, siblings Xzavier Ingle, 6, Mason Ingle, 6 and Alivia Stahl. 9, were struck and killed while trying to get on the bus at 7:15 a.m. that day.

The investigation revealed that Alyssa Shepherd, 24, Rochester, disregarded the bus’ stop sign and the continued her line to travel, striking four children in all. Maverik Lowe, 11, was flown via Samaritan Helicopter to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne from injuries sustained in the crash, including multiple broken bones.

This type of tragedy could happen anywhere. Local administrators report that automobiles disregard bus stop signs almost on a weekly basis. The three siblings in Rochester were among five youngsters nationwide killed last week in bus stop accidents.

“School safety and student safety is our No. 1 priority of ours and our transportation department,” Wabash City Schools Superintendent Jason Callahan said. “A lot of it comes back to communication and training. Our transportation director (Samantha Harshman) works with bus drivers on routes and routinely visits routes. If we ever have incidences of a car running a stop arm, we report it immediately to the authorities. We do that through radios. Communication is pretty fluid when it comes to bus drivers.”

Wabash has had incidences of fender benders and other kinds of bus accidents. The radios are key, Callahan said.

“We do a bus evacuation practice and work with our school resource officer to walk through those scenarios,” Callahan said. “I would say it’s that training and ongoing evaluation. We have about five crossing guards in the community that will go to multiple stops and, and it’s a communication and evaluation of those stops and traffic that promotes safety.
“From a community standpoint, I do think if we’re to take a tragedy and turn it into something positive. It is that awareness that during August through May there are kids and buses out there, and for drivers to be cognizant, especially as the weather turns bad.

At Metropolitan School District of Wabash, the bus drivers also undergo several different types training, including their annual safety training in July.

“Typically if we have a route where students cross the street to get on the bus, the students are always told to wait until the bus driver waves them over,” MSD transportation director Shannon McBride said. “They are also told to keep an eye on the bus driver and to listen for the horn. Any time the horn blows they are to stop walking because a car is coming. Our drivers are trained to always be on the lookout to see if a car is slowing down. And, if it’s not, the horn lets kids know not to cross.

Being in education for 34 years, MSD superintendent Mike Keaffaber has noticed that eye contact that is supposed to be made between students and bus drivers.

MSD has drivers drive around their cross sign weekly.

“And, that’s incredible that that continues to happen,” Keaffaber said. “I hear the radios too. Shannon receives calls almost every week from bus drivers who report them. If we happen to get any information we can report it. But, many times they’re not able to get the license plate of the driver.

“I think it’s unbelievable that how long this law has been in place, and how long that we’ve been doing this, that that still occurs and occurs so frequently. It’s tragic in certain situations and it can happen. You just hope the public will follow the rules of the road.”

Posted on 2018 Nov 06