Students and parents are worried about drivers passing school buses that are stopped to let off students after a driver drove around a bus Tuesday in Montgomery Village and hit a Watkins Mill Elementary School fourth grader, seriously injuring her.
According to a letter from Watkins Mill Elementary Principal Brooke Simon, the bus was stopped with its red lights on and stop arm out near the intersection of Office Park Drive and Walkers Choice Road while students were getting off. The incident happened around 3:53 p.m., according to Montgomery County police.
“A driver chose to speed around the bus and in doing so struck one of our fourth graders. 911 was called immediately and the student was transported to the hospital,” she wrote in the letter, sent out Wednesday.
Simon added that the bus driver and multiple students on the bus saw the 9-year-old girl get hit, and mental health and wellness resources would be available for students and staff members at the school.
The student has injuries considered non life-threatening, according to Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Chris Cram.
Maryland law requires drivers from both directions to stop when school buses have their lights and stop arm activated, except for on multi-lane highways divided by a median strip. In those cases, drivers traveling in the opposite direction do not need to stop but are encouraged to proceed with caution.
The bus stop where the girl was hit is in an apartment community, and parents who were waiting there at the same time Thursday afternoon told a reporter that they had also seen the car strike the student.
Sandy Chavez, who has two children, said she saw the driver hit the student, but didn’t see anything after that. She said she worries about the students’ safety as they are getting on and off the bus, and that drivers must slow down.
“I think that they have to be more, like, cautious because they know that there are children coming from the bus,” she said.
Ariel Marquez, an 11-year-old who lives in the apartment community and attends Montgomery Village Middle School was waiting for his cousin to be dropped off by the bus when Tuesday’s incident occurred. Seeing the crash was scary, he said.
“I thought that was gonna happen to someone else or me,” he said.
Ariel estimated that as many as 30 students get on and off the bus at the stop.
County police spokeswoman Shiera Goff told Bethesda Beat on Thursday that the driver has received citations, but no criminal charges had been filed yet.
NBC 4 reported Thursday that the State’s Attorney’s Office said charges were pending. Lauren DeMarco, a spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, told Bethesda Beat on Friday that the crash is under investigation.
Passing a stopped school bus generates an automatic $250 fine from a camera built into the bus. If a police officer issues a citation, the fine can be higher and the driver may receive points on their license.
According to police, there were 36,717 citations issued for passing a stopped school bus in 2021, and 32,311 issued so far this year.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org