Each morning, Meredith Entler drives her 5-year-old twin boys to kindergarten at St. Mary of Gostyn School in Downers Grove.
As she navigates her way through the rush hour traffic between her Westmont home and the school, Entler passes several school bus stops.
Her boys are fascinated by the big yellow school buses and look forward to the day when they'll ride them to school. Entler worries about that day because of the lack of safety surrounding school buses.
“Every single day I see someone drive around a bus,” she said. “They don’t even tap on the brakes.”
The tragic consequences associated with passing a school bus when the arm signal device is extended hit home for Entler on Oct. 30 when a 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old twin brothers were killed in Rochester, Ind., when they were struck by a pickup truck while crossing the street to board their school bus.
The driver of the truck was arrested and charged with reckless homicide and other crimes. She told investigators she didn’t see the school bus or the children until it was too late, according to media reports.
Entler fears a similar accident could occur in Westmont or Downers Grove if proactive steps aren’t taken to stop drivers from driving around school buses.
But rather than simply complain about the unsafe driving, Entler has decided to do something about it.
"You feel so helpless as a parent," she said. "These are the everyday fears we have to live with."
She recently posted to a community Facebook page to start a dialog about ways residents could improve safety in school zones. She's concerned not only about bus safety but also about drivers who speed, ignore traffic restrictions or talk on their cellphones while in school zones.
Some people responded to the post suggesting Entler take her complaints to police, but she envisions a larger, community-wide initiative.
"I know the Westmont police are doing everything they can," Entler said. "How do we as a community lead instead of follow? What can we do to make it safer for our kids?"
Entler has contacted both the Westmont and Downers Grove libraries about hosting a community forum where these issues could be discussed. She'd like community and school district leaders to join residents in tackling the issue.
"What are the things we can do to bolster what we already have in place?" said Entler, a Hinsdale native who's lived in Westmont for the past six years.
The laws associated with school bus safety are rather straightforward.
When a school bus is traveling on a two-lane roadway and is stopped to pick up or drop off students, vehicles in all lanes of traffic must stop at least 20 feet before reaching the bus to allow pupils to cross the roadway safely, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.
When a bus is traveling on a four-lane roadway with at least two lanes of traffic traveling in the opposite direction, only cars traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop, and when a bus is traveling on a one-way roadway, all lanes of traffic must stop, regardless of the number of lanes of traffic.
“Everyone is driving like they’re on a lifesaving mission,” Entler said.