School bus safety still an issue for task force - - The News for South Mississippi

School bus safety still an issue for task force

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Under the dome of the state capitol Thursday morning a small group of folks laid out a big agenda.

"Our children need to be made more aware and also our driving public," said Lamar County Superintendent Ben Burnett.

They're part of the state's school bus safety task force, put in place as a result of Nathan's Law which went into effect last year. The law stiffens penalties for anyone caught passing a stopped school bus and adds an aggravated assault charge for hitting a child. It's named after five year old Nathan Key of Jones County who was ran over and killed after stepping off of his school bus in 2009.

"We have tragically lost some lives in the state of Mississippi in the last several years and have almost lost some other lives and it's unnecessary," said Burnett who also serves as task force chairman.

With constant scenes of drivers passing school busses across the country, the task force is working to put a stop to it in Mississippi.

"It still happens. I read a national statistic last year that one out of two school busses is passed illegally every day," Burnett said.

Burnett says the group is working on a state and legislative agenda. So far three people in Mississippi have been charged under Nathan's Law for passing a school bus and hitting a child. One of those, in Scott County, recently became the first conviction.

Nathan's parents, Andy and Lori, say they're happy the law is working.

"I'm glad that out of the tragic loss of my son, I can feel a sense that we have been able to help other children," said Lori Key.

Key says there's still work to be done. A big problem she says is the lack of awareness to state policies and procedures for school bus loading and unloading.

"We're trying to teach our kids the right procedures to follow to get on and off of their school busses and we need to public to do the same and stop when they see a stop sign," said Key.

By going into schools across the state and teaching students, bus drivers and administrators, the task force hopes to get everyone one the same page in school bus safety.

"These are school buses. People have to stop. There are children that are crossing the street," said key.

The meeting comes in preparation for National School Bus Safety Week which begins on October 22nd. The task force will also be presenting a report to the legislature next year.

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