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School bus safety is a serious topic for Bonneville Deputy

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - There are about 18 million school bus arm violations a year across the nation, according to the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office.

That makes school bus safety week an even more important event, especially for Bonneville County Deputy Daniel Sperry, a school resource officer in Bonneville School District 93.

"It's been pretty consistent, unfortunately," Sperry said. "You know, the start of the school year seems like there are quite a few, and then it'll decrease for a little and then go back up. But it's usually pretty busy. This year has been quite busy as well."

For some parents like Nick Huskinson, it has them on edge.

"I've seen it before, but never with my own kids," Huskinson said. "So the first few weeks we were here, I'd say at least two or three times a week. There's one, sometimes three or four cars that just blow through the school bus arm stop. It's like they're not paying attention. I mean, it's a giant yellow bus with blinking lights."

Sperry said that just last week a student almost got hit.

Chris Haroldson, the bus driver said the student wasn't looking for cars.

"He started walking and I only had my ambers on so the cars weren't stopping and the car coming thought it was a great idea to floor it to beat the stop sign out, to get through before the stop sign came out," Haroldson said. "So it from my point of view, it wasn't quite as close as I thought it was, but it was still way too close. The kid almost got hit by the car. He stepped out, the car went flying by and he kind of stepped back and I was in the driver's seat and I happened so quick I didn't have time to honk the horn to warn him or anything. I was completely helpless and just scared the crap out of me."

For Sperry, the mission to make sure kids get on and off buses safely is personal.

His daughter Makayla Strahle was 11 when she was killed almost 10 years ago.

"December 20. It was five days before Christmas," Sperry said. "She was getting off the school bus right in front of our house, and a vehicle failed to stop and she was hit and killed. I was the first first responder. I had to do CPR on my daughter. I could feel all the damage that had been done. I had to interact with the gentleman who killed her and then I had to testify at her homicide trial."

They spent Christmas Eve writing her eulogy.

Now Sperry and his wife have made it their mission to share Makayla's story.

Sperry works not just with departments in Idaho, but across the country as well.

"I get invited all over North America, into Canada, to do trainings on school bus safety," Sperry said. "And I've had the privilege of providing information to the NTSB on school bus safety, and some of my recommendations are now federal recommendations from the NTSB."

All to get kids to and from school safely.

"There's one reason for school buses to be on the road and that's for transporting kids," Sperry said. "It's all about getting kids to hop to and from school safe and alive so that they can go home and and and hug their parents."

Sperry also talked about some of the confusion about when you have to stop.

When on a highway like Highway 26 - "We've got four lanes here, plus we have the median area," Sperry said. "Some people are surprised that the school busses stop on a 65 mile an hour. But the fact is that we have students that live out this way and they need to be picked up by the school bus as well. The school bus stops in the lane of traffic. So again, if you see a school bus out here, recognize that it's out here to pick up children. And if you're traveling in the same direction, you are required by law to stop for that bus.

When it's a three-lane road- "The opposite direction does not have to stop," Sperry said. "This is South Holmes. This road we have a southbound lane. We have a turn lane and we have a northbound lane. So this is still a three-lane road here. It's very wide. We've got like a bike lane here or a side lane and then the same on the other side. So this is considered a three-lane road. So both traffic, both directions would be required to stop in this on this particular stretch of road."

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Rachel Fabbi

Rachel Fabbi is a reporter, anchor and producer for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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