Liberty Hill mother catches drivers illegally passing stopped school buses

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LIBERTY HILL, Texas (KXAN) — Law enforcement agencies in Williamson County stepped up patrols this week after a mother caught people continually breaking the law at her children’s bus stop in Liberty Hill.

Lyndsi Bennett took several videos on her cell phone showing cars illegally driving past the school bus with flashing lights on stopped near her family’s home along S.H. 29.

“The bus comes up, puts on its caution lights and stops. The red lights are on. Cars fly by,” Bennett said. “Every day at least one car passes. I caught 11 cars [pass] that one time. It’s unreal.”

She captured video of the latter incident on Tuesday and sent it to Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody. He and two other deputies came out early Wednesday morning to step up patrols and look for school bus violations.

“You would think people would realize there are children on the bus,” Bennett said. “It’s our kids. They need to be safe. It’s our jobs to protect them, and then you’ve just got people mindlessly pass by as if it’s nothing.”

Because this particular section of S.H. 29 has no grassy median or physical barrier separating traffic, Texas state law requires people to stop in every direction when a school bus stops and turns on all its cautionary lights.

“If it’s not a divided highway, then you’re required to stop for a stopped school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and a stop sign,” Lt. Grayson Kennedy with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office explained.

“You’re required by law to stop on both lanes of traffic whether it’s eastbound, westbound, northbound or southbound,” he added. “Just because there’s a center turn lane does not negate that you do need to stop for that school bus.”

Lt. Grayson said the traffic division at the Sheriff’s Office is now working on a county-wide initiative to specifically target people who pass stopped school buses. Citations for that offense could carry a fine up to $1,250 if a driver is ultimately convicted.

“The state of Texas, as it should, and Williamson County take this violation very serious and rightfully so,” Lt. Kennedy said, “because it’s trying to protect our children.”

Most of the people actually stopped in both directions Friday afternoon when Bennett went to pick up her three daughters from the bus stop. Two Liberty Hill police officers, though, set up near there and did pull over one driver that passed the bus after it stopped.

“People need to pay attention because it’s more of an awareness thing,” Bennett said. “I don’t want people getting massive tickets, but I don’t want my kids in danger.”

KXAN asked how many citations the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and the Liberty Hill Police Department recently wrote for illegally passing a school bus, but neither agency could provide numbers immediately Friday.

Deputies are asking neighbors to send an email to trafficconcerns@wilco.org if they’d like to report any issues in their area. The traffic unit reviews those messages daily, according to Lt. Kennedy.

“We understand there’s more of these out there, but if we’re not aware of it, then it’s hard for us to help you,” he said. “Please reach out to us. Please email us. Please call, and let us know about these issues because we’ll be more than happy to address them.”

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