KATHLEEN, Fla. (FOX 13) - Erica Richardson is at her wits' end. The north Lakeland woman says kids are in danger every morning because drivers are blowing through a stop sign as kids board their school bus.
“Every time you run a stop sign on a stopped bus, you’re basically telling these children at that stop that your life is not worth my time,” Richardson told FOX 13. “Your safety is in no way, shape or form, worth my time.”
Richardson says it’s not an occasional problem. One recent Friday, exasperated, she went into the middle of Kathleen Road and stopped the cars herself.
“A good day for us is when only two to three cars go through the stop sign,” she said, implying there are usually more.
Her home surveillance system backs up her claims. In one video, the bus stops, cars ignore the stop, and the school bus driver lays on the horn. A semi-truck driver that stopped behind the school bus chimes in with a bellowing beep.
The cars keep coming.
There is a hefty penalty if you get caught ignoring the rules regarding a stopped school bus. Drivers traveling in the same direction as a stopped bus, who scoot around it, can get fined $254.
Oncoming traffic that doesn’t stop for school buses can be fined even more: $354.
Richardson has called the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and reported the problem, but it didn’t do much good.
“The moment we arrive with a marked patrol car, traffic behaves,” complained Polk Sheriff Grady Judd. “The moment we leave, it quits behaving.”
Judd says there are 9,400 school bus stops in Polk County and he can’t station a deputy at each one. He also can’t cite the reckless drivers because they got caught on video.
A deputy has to be there and actually see the infraction.
Richardson has posted a sign from the sheriff’s office on her property that says, “Drive like your kids live here.”
She posts videos of the lawbreakers on social media, which usually helps for a day or so, then the problem crops back up again.
Her next move is to use a bullhorn to try and get their attention.
“I firmly believe they know the rules of the road,” she said, “They’re just not choosing to stop.”