Drivers illegally passing school buses causes concern for student safety Submitted: 11/20/2018

Play Video
Schools across the Northwoods and the state received millions of dollars in grant money to make their buildings safer this year. But a huge safety risk happens before your children even get to their schools.

Children have been hurt and killed in crashes at bus stops across the country, and drivers in the area say it's a problem here, too.

During one Lakeland Area bus's last stops of the day, a car zoomed by on Highway 47, completely disregarding the bus's stop sign. Apparently that violation isn't uncommon. 

"As bus drivers in the United States, children are at danger every day," said Lakeland Area Bus Terminal Manager Kim Hazelett.

Hazelett was horrified when she heard three children in Indiana were killed after being hit by a car at their bus stop.

"It kind of hit a sore sport with me," said Hazelett.

So far this school year, Hazelett says they've been able to report 12 drivers for illegally passing their buses. 

"Eight of those instances were following the week of the Indiana incident," said Hazelett. "So eight in one week." 

Hazelett believes part of the problem is a lack of knowledge.

"I just feel we need to make it more know to the public what laws are," said Hazelett. 

Road rules with buses are fairly simple. Most people know on a two-land road that cars going in both directions need to stop when a bus stops and has its stop sign out. The real issue comes with four lane highways like Highway 51 in Minocqua, where many people don't know all lanes are supposed to stop when the bus is stopped. The only time cars going in the opposite direction of the bus don't have to stop is when there's a median or barrier in the way.

When a driver does violate the law, bus drivers like Jim Smith try to get the license plate number.

"But you're also watching in your mirrors for other cars that are coming, and you're watching these children come up and get on the bus," said Smith. "So you've got a lot to look at in a short period of time." 

Bus drivers also have dash cameras, which can sometimes help identify who is violating the law. They'll also use their radio system to warn other buses to watch out for a particular driver as well.

"We're trying to do everything we can to catch that person," said Smith. 

Drivers who are caught will pay a $326.50 fine and get four points on their license. Owners are also liable for cars that illegally pass a bus and face the same fine. 

"It's a dangerous violation, you put a lot of people's lives at risk," said Minocqua Police Lt. Jason Benbenek. 

It's a risk that Hazelett says is never worth taking.

"Everything else can wait," said Hazelett. "Nothing is more important than the life of a child."

The other major issue bus drivers are having is people speeding up to pass a bus when they're putting their yellow warning lights on, rather than slowing down. Hazelett says those yellow lights should be treated just like a traffic light, as a signal to slow down and stop. 

Minocqua Police have been working closely with the Lakeland Area Bus Service to try to catch more drivers in violation. Lt. Benbenek has written up at least one citation himself.

"We like to get our officers out there," said Lt. Benbenek. "I followed the buses through down 51 after school, just kind of at a distance, kind of watching. We have other officers that have gotten a schedule to kind of see areas that we've heard of that are problem areas and kind of watch those areas."

To help educate more people on the laws, the Lakeland Bus Service is also teaming up with Law Dogs Driver Education. Starting in December bus drivers will participate in training young drivers to make sure they know all the rules to passing school buses. 

For more information on the laws, people can visit the Lakeland Area Bus Service Facebook page.

Story By: Dakota Sherek

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
 Print Story Print Story | Email Story Email Story


Play Video

ANTIGO - On Tuesday, we learned the number of deer killed on the first weekend of the gun season was 13,000 more than last year.

In the Northwoods as whole, the early harvest was about the same as last year. Numbers fell a bit in Forest, Iron, and Price counties. They rose slightly in Oneida, Vilas, and Lincoln counties.

But in Langlade County, they were up almost 18 percent.

In Antigo, the cooler at Ken's Hwy 45 Meat Market filled up quickly.

"I would say it was at least twice as busy as other years," said owner Ken Schmidt.

+ Read More

RHINELANDER - Even as we approach the season of giving, some people want to take.  Since Monday afternoon, Wisconsin Public Service has received 40 reports of scam phone calls made to customers.

The scammers claim to be from WPS, and threaten disconnection if they don't get money.  Both business and residential customers have been targeted.

+ Read More

Two of the five people hurt in a head-on crash near Rhinelander last week are still in the hospital.  The crash happened about 10 miles west of Rhinelander on Highway 8 around 9:30 a.m. Friday.

State Patrol Sergeant Rhae Stertz told Newswatch 12 a black Chevy Malibu driven by an 85-year-old woman crossed the center line and hit a gold Buick.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Not many people like to drive in the winter. A vehicle break-down can add more to the headache. With snow already beginning to fall, auto shops are busy. People are bringing their vehicles in to have them checked and to be ready for the season. Some of the most common things people should have checked include the battery, windshield wipers, and windshield washer fluid. However, the most common issue that actually causes a car to have problems is actually with the heat itself.

"People start to have a no heat condition which could be related to a faulty thermostat; or also when you get a no heat condition, it could have been that the coolant is low and you never would have known that you didn't have heat during the warmer months so that would…could signify an internal engine problem or just an external leak," says James Maze, Owner of Maze Certified Auto Repair.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Mathew Smith entered an Oneida County courtroom Monday morning with his head bowed as he crossed in front of ex-girlfriend Kimber McKenzie.

"His body language is different.  The way he's presenting himself is completely different," McKenzie said.

McKenzie, who is the mother of a 1-year-old child with Smith, came to Smith's sentencing to get some closure to a dark part of her life.

"Once the drugs come into the factor, they completely change him," McKenzie said.

+ Read More

Play Video

NORWAY, MI - The Upper Peninsula hoped this day would never come.

Hunters and biologists watched chronic wasting disease spread north across Wisconsin, infecting and killing deer in its path.

They hoped the U.P. deer herd would stay free of the deadly disease. But this year, a deer killed east of Iron Mountain tested positive. That triggered a quick and aggressive response from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

"It's a pretty steady stream of people," said MDNR wildlife technician Ryan McGillviray as he worked on a deer carcass Monday.

+ Read More
STEAM Museum brought to MHLTSubmitted: 11/19/2018

Play Video

MINOCQUA - Field trips to museums can be fairly common for some schools, but it's not every day the museum will come to the school.

That's exactly what MHLT students got to experience Monday when an interactive STEAM museum was brought to the school.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math. The goal is to teach students those subjects using interactive methods.

The museum brought several different stations that touched on each subject.

+ Read More
+ More Local News

Click Here