SHERRARD, Illinois – When it comes to traffic on Highway 67 in Mercer County, the combination of cars zooming by and kids boarding school buses isn’t the safest.
“You got to be on your toes on this road,” says Mercer County father, Ryan Juras.
Juras has kids attending Sherrard schools and most days he treks up his driveway to pick up his son and daughter.
But, after seeing too many cars illegally drive right past his kids’ stopped school bus, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I just had my phone in my pocket one day and I thought ‘I’m just going to film this’,” Juras says.
It’s state law in Illinois and Iowa that you can’t pass a stopped school bus when the extended stop sign is activated, but Juras continues to see too many drivers whizz right past the blinking red lights.
“If they see me filming them, they’ll sometimes look at me like ‘what are you doing?’ or ‘Whoops!’,” Juras comments.
The videos he captures he shares on Facebook to spread a message. But his phone isn’t the only camera capturing violators.
“One of the cameras on each of the buses is affixed on the extended stop arm,” explains Sherrard School District Superintendent, Alan Boucher.
The Sherrard School District now has cameras on the inside and outside of each of its buses.
“We can monitor traffic that is behind us and in front of us,” Boucher explains.
Those cameras can catch many videos. The problem is the video can prove who owns the car, but they can’t always tell who is driving it.
“Law enforcement hasn’t been able to follow through as much as they would like,” Boucher says.
This isn’t only happening in Mercer County. Ryan Gall is a Davenport father and after he saw too many cars speed past Washington Elementary, he started writing down license plate numbers and sending them to the principal.
“It just irritates me,” Gall says. “I just want to get out and thump them a couple times … like I said they would get mad if their kids got hit.”
Davenport school bus drivers wrote 40 violations last fall, but only five of those turned into citations.
Mercer County Sheriff Dusty Terrill realizes it’s not only hard to see who is driving the car, but he believes law enforcement isn’t seeing every video or violation that comes across his desk.
“I wish I knew where the chain is being broken in these multiple violations,” says Sheriff Terrill. “That person and the bus driver are not taking the appropriate steps to notify law enforcement because we would take those violations very seriously.”
So far this school year, Mercer County has only written two citations for drivers passing by a stopped school bus.
“I’ve searched our records and we aren’t being made aware of many violators,” Sheriff Terrill comments.
But parents say the violators are out there and it’s just a matter of time before the worst-case scenario becomes a very real tragedy.
“It just takes one child being killed and I can’t imagine that,” Juras comments.
Drivers caught passing a stopped school bus get a $150 fine and a three-month license suspension. The fine goes up each violation after that.