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Horrible Bus Tragedy in Fulton County

Jason Reese

Tippecanoe Valley School Bus Tragedy Reminds Drivers What to Do When Approaching a School Bus

Everyone at Wagner Reese, including our family members and close friends, have kept heavy hearts, thoughts, and prayers for the family of the twin boys and their big sister who were recently killed in the Fulton County school bus accident on North Ind. 25 north of Rochester. According to Indiana State Police reports, the tragedy occurred as the young children, the twins age 6 and older sister who was 9, were crossing a rural highway to get onto their school bus when hit by a Toyota pickup truck. The children were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash and a fourth child sustained life-threatening injuries. The children were students from Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation. So far, details of the horrific accident confirm that the bus was stopped with its lights flashing and its “STOP” arm extended as the pickup truck drove into the victims.

The driver of the pickup truck is a 24-year-old female who was traveling with three other children in her vehicle at the time of the crash. She remained at the scene of the crash to assist investigators and alcohol and drugs are not believed to have contributed to the cause. Court records show she has since been charged with multiple felony counts of reckless homicide and one misdemeanor count of passing a school bus when an arm signal device is extended, causing bodily injury. The driver told investigators she did see the school bus lights but not the children in the path of her pickup truck until it was too late.

The Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation has made immediate changes to the location of the victims’ bus stop and the district has plans to create a transportation safety review committee involving local sheriffs to assess accident risks at all of the district’s bus stops.

Children being killed while getting on or off the school bus is rare but when it does happen, it is mostly due to an illegal passing made by another vehicle, approaching from the front or rear of a bus and in the direct path of vulnerable, young children. The collisions nearly always end in horrendous, and painful loss of lives.

STOP and Follow These School Bus Traffic Laws

Our legal team, many of us parents as well, wish we didn’t have to put this blog post together but as personal injury attorneys who represent those involved in difficult motor vehicle accidents each day we also feel a duty to remind our readers about the life-saving rules behind stopping for a school bus. These laws are provided with the help of the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Two-lane Roadways

If a school bus stops on a two-lane road and the red flashing lights are activated and the stop arm is extended, all motorists must STOP.

Multi-lane Roadways with No Barrier Between Lanes

When a school bus stops on a multi-lane roadway without a barrier and the red flashing lights are activated and the stop arm is extended, all motorists must STOP.

Multi-lane Roadway with a Grassy and/or Concrete Barrier

When a school bus stops and the red flashing lights are activated, and the stop arm is extended, only vehicles behind the bus must STOP. Vehicles that are approaching from the opposite side are not required to stop but should proceed with caution and slow down.

If you’re supposed to stop, as outlined above, and you don’t, you could easily be the cause behind a serious crash while violating state laws and be ticketed. If you are ticketed for illegally passing a stopped school bus, it’s a Class A infraction and you can be fined up to $10,000. If you cause death or injury to others, the consequences will sit with you for life.

Several school bus drivers have presented findings that Indiana drivers illegally pass them five to six times a day even while “STOP” arm signs are deployed, and flashing lights are active. Community members and school officials are outraged by these reports and believe stronger enforcement against drivers who break the state’s school bus passing laws would act as a stronger deterrent. We look forward to what state lawmakers, school districts, and local and state police can do in the future to help establish strategies to prevent another tragedy like this from occurring again.

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