Bartow’s sheriff today, Aug. 29, commended a county school bus driver after she warned a student before a pickup truck barely missed her as it passed the stopped bus with emergency lights and stop arm engaged.
Bartow County School System bus driver Shannon Banks later helped other drivers locate the vehicle at a residence on Road 3 South, which helped deputies locate and arrest a suspect on charges related to the Aug. 20 incident.
It also apparently was the latest in a series of similar occurrences in which vehicles allegedly are illegally passing stopped school buses with their warning lights and stop arms engaged as students boarded, a sheriff’s office spokesman said.
Sheriff Clark Millsap at a news conference recognized Banks for her actions Aug. 20.
“Sheriff Millsap recognizes that the actions of Ms. Banks resulted in the student quickly moving out of the path of the truck, possibly saving her from serious injury,” a news release stated.
Millsap said Banks was driving her bus on Aug. 20 at about 7:11 a.m. and was set to make the last of four daily stops on Young Road west of Cartersville to pick up students to transport them to school.
As she stopped to allow a 15-year-old student to get on “she activated the bus caution lights” and its red lights and stop sign system activated, a news release from the sheriff’s office stated.
“This bus was also equipped with a video recording system which recorded the incident,” the release stated.
It said a vehicle approaching the bus from the opposite direction stopped at a safe distance and the student began to cross in front of the stopped vehicle to enter the bus.
However, Banks then saw in her side mirror a blue, older model pickup truck quickly approaching from behind the bus and set to pass the bus into the path of the student, the release stated.
“Ms. Banks immediately began to blow the bus horn in long blasts, signaling the
student who was able to quickly get in front of the bus as the offender passed and kept going,” Millsap said in the release.
A sheriff’s office incident report stated the truck also barely missed the stopped vehicle and witnesses saw the truck traveling away from the scene before turning right on to Road No.3 after failing to stop at a stop sign .
Banks then notified her supervisors at the school system’s Transportation Department who contacted the sheriff’s office, the release stated.
“An investigation was immediately launched and several bus drivers reported seeing the distinctive older truck in the area of Road No. 3 South at a residence,” the release stated. “Deputies and investigators located the truck at 126 Road No. 3 South.”
An incident report stated a deputy and detective located the suspect vehicle behind a garage or barn building at the suspect’s residence “with its license plate removed.”
The suspect’s father later identified the truck as belonging to the suspect, the report stated.
The sheriff said “subsequent interviews and vehicle inspections by investigators” resulted in the arrest today, Aug. 29, of Blake Tyson Lockwood on a series of charges related to the Aug. 20 incident.
Lockwood, 42, resides at the same address where the truck was located, the release stated.
He was booked into the Bartow County Adult Detention Center on charges of 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.
Sheriff’s Lt. Matthew Beal stated in a report released today that, since Aug. 8, he had investigated 28 incidents of motorists being videotaped passing any of the county school buses outfitted with stop arm cameras.
Transportation Director Jody Elrod said video of the Aug. 20 incident that investigators viewed was taken from a camera system installed within the bus.
The system includes a “shield camera” that captures the outside of the front of the bus, Elrod said.
The school system operates a total of 147 buses, of which 17 buses which operate in the county’s high traffic areas have stop arm cameras installed on them which only record when the bus is actually making a stop, Elrod said.
He said the interior cameras like the one that captured the video operate the entire time the bus is running.