GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - The death of a 5-year-old boy led to the creation of a law that toughens penalties for drivers who illegally pass school buses that are stopped. Tuesday, his mother shared her story in Jackson County.
"Thirty-five hundred times a day in the state of Mississippi a bus is illegally passed," said Lori McJohnson.
McJohnson knows first hand how dangerous that number is. In 2009, her son, Nathan, was struck and killed by a driver doing just that.
"It took me a long time for me to come to grips, why someone would not stop for a bus," said McJohnson.
Administrators at the Pascagoula-Gautier School District say they're working to do all they can to keep their students safe. That's why with the school year just kicking off they invited McJohnson to talk at the first school bus safety meeting of the year.
"We want them to take just a little bit of Lori's passion towards making sure that our children are safe and get to school and home safely every day," said Lance Bolen, Pascagoula-Gautier School District's Director of Transportation.
Bus drivers and aides from all 82 routes in the district packed into the Gautier High School cafeteria to listen.
"It's alarming," said bus driver Johnny Olsen. "It's just the dangers that we as bus drivers and the children that you see every day out on the street the possibilities that they face of getting injured, and once again it's a safety issue."
So what should motorists do when they see a stopped bus?
"Every time you see a bus coming at you or you're behind a bus, when those red lights in particular start to flash that should signal right then and there the bus is gonna stop. So you have to be prepared," Olsen said.
School bus drivers say they're ready to put what they've learned to use.
"Now when I get on the bus this afternoon, I'm going to be even more aware than I was even this morning," said bus driver Rachel Rushing.