PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) – The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is teaching drivers a lesson about passing stopped school buses.
As part of “Operation Safe Stop,” they handed out tickets to dozens of drivers along U.S. 19 in Port Richey, where parents have complained about the problem near Butch Street.
“It was just me for a while up here and what I was doing wasn’t that great either. I was kind of standing on the side of the road, yelling at people,” said Kristen Rieger, who was among the first to notify the sheriff’s office. “It’s not the Pasco County School District or the Board of Education’s responsibility; it’s the Pasco County community, to stop for our children.”
Rieger was eventually joined by Monica Douglas, who recorded a series of cell phone videos documenting the problem and posted them on social media.
“I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t take it. It was outrageous. She was upset. It hurt her feelings. I said, ‘All right, let’s change it,'” said Douglas.
Thursday morning, deputies wrote 30 tickets at a single bus stop.
The sheriff’s office released video from traffic stops earlier in the week that were recorded by Deputy Justin Smith’s body camera. During most of them, drivers told Smith they didn’t see the bus.
“Most of the of the excuses are that they either didn’t see the bus or thought they didn’t have to stop because they were in the far left lane or they tried to get through fast enough when the lights were still yellow,” he said. “Unfortunately none of those excuses really work. The Florida statute is pretty clear.”
According to Florida law, drivers almost always have to stop when a school bus has stopped. The only time they can continue driving is when there is a median and they are traveling the opposite direction.
Related VideoView Larger
Rieger is relieved to see the deputies taking action.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I’m so excited and happy and just overwhelmed, honestly, with the support that we are getting from the community.”
FOX 13 received a series of viewer questions asking why there are bus stops on U.S. 19. A spokesperson for the Pasco County school district said the district does not eliminate heavily-traveled roads from its list of bus stops; the district makes sure children do not have to cross a road to get to the bus.