Red light blues: School buses caught on camera

Tom Vail's 4in. Hail in Burnet

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Since installing red light cameras in 2009, the City of Austin has captured video of 28 school buses running red lights. Twenty-two were Austin ISD buses and six others were from Round Rock ISD.

After digging through an open records request, KXAN uncovered some school bus drivers who run red lights are not penalized on a state grading system meant to protect kids.

In red light camera recordings over the four-year period, buses ran red lights in all types of weather conditions. Some were also traveling as part of a caravan.

“We do not play around with that…we do not want that bus driver employed with us.”— JoyLynn Occhiuzzi, Round Rock ISD

School districts keep a close eye on bus drivers both on and off the clock.

School districts are required to discipline bus drivers on a statewide point system created by the Department of Public Safety. Each traffic violation – whether a driver is working, or in their personal vehicle – carries a penalty. If a driver gets to 10 points in three years, they are automatically terminated.

KXAN found penalties for various violations can differ from district to district.

AISD PenaltiesAustin ISD does not penalize bus drivers with points when caught running a red light on camera. Each driver does have to pay the ticket – which range from $75 to $100 – and meet with their supervisor.

“With the red light camera, it does not appear on your driving record,” said Kris Hafezi, AISD’s dransportation director.

In Round Rock ISD, bus drivers are automatically hit with two points if they run a red light. If the violation happens while students are on the bus, the driver is recommended for termination.

“We do not play around with that,” said JoyLynn Occhiuzzi, spokesperson for Round Rock ISD. “We do not want that bus driver employed with us.”

As for Austin, they say no bus driver has ever been fired specifically for running a red light. However, penalizing a bus driver who commits the infraction is not out of the question.

“I think they should be fired…it’s the kids’ lives at stake.”— Sara Davila, mother of 6-year-old

“That is something we could consider in the future if we don’t see a trend that that number is going down,” Hafezi said.

Punishment should be harsher than just a fine or points on a driving record, some parents said.

“I think they should be fired,” Sara Davila, whose 6-year-old son rides the bus home every day. “…it’s the kids’ lives at stake.”

The number of red light ticket violators was on a downward trend since the cameras were installed, but are again tracking upward.

In 2009, 11 school bus drivers ran red lights. Three years later, only one ran a red light. But in 2013, six school bus drivers ran red lights.

Recent crashes involving school buses:
What: Del Valle ISD bus vs. vehicle
Where: FM 812 and Doyle Road
Injured: One person in the vehicle was airlifted to hospital. Two kids on the bus were not hurt.

What: School bus and gravel truck collided
Where: Ed Bluestein Boulevard
Injured: No serious injuries and no kids were on the school bus

What: AISD bus struck a car that pulled out in front of the bus
Where: 3553 Far West Blvd.
Injured: No injuries in car or bus

What: Jeep sideswiped the bus
Where: 10312 Old Manchaca Rd.
Injured: EMS evaluated 43 students, none were taken to the hospital

What: Manor ISD bus rear-ended by car
Where: U.S. Highway 290 and Gregg Manor Rd.
Injured: Five students transported with minor injuries

What: Driver in a car lost control and struck Manor ISD Bus
Where:  Littig Road
Injured: Three students and car driver were taken to the hospital

What: Sedan driven by teens ran into a Burnet CISD bus that was making a turn (bus had right of way)
Where: Hwy 29 / CR 252
Injured: A 16-year-old girl driving the car and her 14-year-old brother both died

What: Car rear-ended Manor ISD bus
Where: U.S. Highway 290 / Parmer Lane
Injured: Six students taken to hospital with minor injuries

What: A SUV slammed into a car which then ran into the back of a Del Valle ISD school bus
Where: Ross Rd. and Pearce Ln.
Injured: 18 people taken to the hospital

What: Leander ISD bus ran into a pickup truck
Where: Near the entrance of Concordia University
Injured: 61 kids on board, no injuries

What: AISD bus was going through intersection when a pickup truck slammed into the side
Where: U.S. Highway 183 and Bolm Road
Injured: 18 students on board, three taken to hospital. Truck driver also taken to hospital.

What: A car headed south on SH 130 ran a red light and rear ended the bus. The Manor ISD bus spun out, causing it to hang over the bridge.
Where: U.S. Highway 290 and State Highway 130
Injured: Four students taken to hospital with minor injuries provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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