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Frank Gray

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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Noah Barbknecht, 15, gets off the bus in front of his home on Hazelett Road with the help of bus driver Jill Imbody on Friday afternoon.

If you can’t wait for bus, change route

Whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not, it’s illegal to pass a stopped school bus when its red lights are flashing.

That’s the law on residential streets, main thoroughfares, highways and country roads.

I know, it can be irritating to have to sit behind a bus and wait for a kid to come out of his house because he can’t seem to be on time for the bus. But that’s life.

If you don’t want to be delayed by a school bus, maybe you should change your route and take a road that a school bus doesn’t use.

Some drivers along Hazelett Road might consider that.

A kid named Noah Barbknecht moved in on Hazelett not long ago. And he was injured in a skiing accident last Christmas Eve that left him partially paralyzed.

Noah is in a wheelchair now, and about 6:25 a.m. he rolls out to the end of his driveway on Hazelett and waits for the bus, which usually arrives around 6:30 or 6:35 a.m.

When the bus does arrive, it does cause some delays. The bus has to stop, the driver has to get out and lower a lift for Noah and his chair so he can roll into the bus.

Then the driver has to raise the lift, get back in the bus and secure Noah’s wheelchair.

In all, says Noah’s mother, Sandi Barbknecht, it takes six minutes.

To the motorists who take Hazelett early in the morning, the delay is new. It’s only been a couple of weeks since the new school year started.

And some people don’t like it. Just about every day, as cars line up to wait for the stopped bus, someone has decided to honk at the bus.

“Almost every morning someone honks,” Sandi Barbknecht said. “They see the bus driver get back into the bus and the bus doesn’t take off. Or by the time they pull up, the driver is already back on the bus, and they don’t know what’s going on.”

Sandi Barbknecht understands people’s frustration. She has asked the school system if the bus could just pull into their driveway. It’s long and wide, she says.

The school system, however, said no because the bus can’t be backing out of a driveway onto the road.

The other day, one driver ran out of patience. Whoever it was pulled out of a line of stopped cars, passed those in front and drove past the school bus, a flagrant violation of the law.

Sandi Barbknecht said she isn’t concerned about her son. She’s more worried about some little girls who wait for a different school bus.

Maybe it’s the same guy who honks every morning, she said. “Maybe he hasn’t learned to take a different route.”

Sandi Barbknecht posted on Facebook about the incident, and in no time she got an earful of complaints from people who say the same thing is happening all over.

One person said that even other school bus drivers honk at buses that carry disabled students.

One woman in Adams County wrote that every morning a woman blows past a stopped school bus in front of her home at about 70 mph.

Barbknecht said she has called the police, but was told police don’t have the manpower to monitor the stop.

The Facebook post, though, apparently did get the attention of police. Friday morning, a squad car was there, just waiting for someone to lose patience and blow past the stopped bus.

So, if you take Hazelett Road around 6:30 a.m., now you understand why the bus is stopped for so long. It’s picking up Noah Barbknecht in his wheelchair.

If you decide to blow past the bus, there will be a police car lurking nearby and you’ll get a ticket, and the fine will probably be pretty salty.

So if you don’t have the time to wait for a school bus, try taking a different route.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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