Bartow’s sheriff was doing more than publicly commending a school bus driver for her quick thinking in alerting a student to an oncoming vehicle recently.
He also was highlighting a move some motorists are taking that could have deadly consequences.
Sheriff Clark Millsap during a press conference Thursday, Aug. 29, was making a point about the dangers of passing a stopped school bus “as there are regular complaints and 911 calls about such drivers here and elsewhere,” said Lt. Jonathan Rogers of the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office.
Between the start of classes Aug. 8 and Aug. 27 the sheriff’s office investigated 28 confirmed incidents of vehicles passing stopped Bartow County school buses outfitted with stop arm cameras — roughly two per day, according to information from sheriff’s Lt. Matthew Beal and Bartow County Schools’ officials.
However, only 17 of the county’s 147 buses are equipped with special cameras attached to the stop arm, Transportation Director Jody Elrod said..
The 17 buses operate in the county’s high traffic areas, Elrod said. The cameras only record when the bus is actually making a stop, he said.
Video of the Aug. 20 incident on Young Road in which a girl was almost struck by a vehicle that bypassed a bus’s stop arm was taken from a camera system installed within the bus, Elrod said.
The system includes a “shield camera” that captures the outside of the front of the bus and operates the entire time the bus is running, he said.
Millsap on Aug. 29 commended Bartow County School System driver Shannon Banks after she blew her horn repeatedly to warn a 15-year-old student walking to board the bus about an oncoming truck.
The video taken from the bus’s inside camera Aug. 20 showed the 1971 Chevrolet pickup truck barely miss the girl and another vehicle as it passed the stopped bus with its emergency lights and stop arm engaged.
Banks later helped other drivers locate the distinctive vehicle at a residence on Road 3 South, which led to deputies locating and arresting a suspect on charges related to the Aug. 20 incident.
“Seven years on the job and Ms. Banks, a mother of four, never had to act as fast as she did on Aug. 20,” the school system stated on its Facebook page.
“The Bartow County School System is proud to have Ms. Banks, a quick, sharp-witted bus driver who cares about all Bartow County children on bus No. 198, not just her own.”
Blake Tyson Lockwood, 42, of Road 3 South in Cartersville was arrested Thursday, Aug. 29, on a series of charges related to the Aug. 20 incident.
The charges included Reckless Driving, Tampering with Evidence, Failure to Maintain Lane, Failure to Stop for School Bus Loading/Unloading, Failure to Obey Stop Sign, Driving Unsafe Vehicle, Removing Tag to Conceal Identity of Vehicle, and Improper Right Turn.