On Nov. 19, a school bus driver for Mill Road Elementary in Red Hook posted a Facebook message on the Red Hook Moms public forum, requesting their assistance.
While picking up students on Route 199 going east from Rock City into Milan, she told the group, a driver in a small silver car tried overtaking the bus on the left before attempting to pass on the right as she approached a stop to pick up a boy.
“[He] tried passing me several times on the left, failed. Tried passing on left again on a double yellow and slammed on his brakes to get back behind the bus. As I approached my next stop, reds activated, this male driver came up on my right side and tried to pass me. Saw the child and put his vehicle in reverse and backed into the traffic behind me once again,” the bus driver wrote.
The bus driver, who requested anonymity for safety reasons, asked forum members for help identifying the aggressive driver because she was unable to get the make, model or plate number of the car.
The forum, made up of parents in the Red Hook/Rhinebeck area, responded at once. Dozens wrote in with messages of support, some claiming to have had similar encounters with an aggressive driver in the same area in the recent past. The post was shared 46 times within 24 hours.
Within the week, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office said it had identified the driver and, as of press time, was expecting to file charges shortly.
The bus driver said she has dealt with her share of impatient drivers in her nine years of driving for the Red Hook school district, but nothing like this had ever happened.
“You don’t do that to my kids. All those kids have homes to go home to, but when they’re on that bus, they’re my babies,” she told the Observer.
“I train all the kids at the beginning of the year,” she added. “I say, ‘This is what you’ve got to do, this is what I expect from you when you get off the bus. I want you to look both ways before you put your foot on the ground. When you walk towards my door [to get on], look both ways, make sure there are no cars coming.’”
“That little kid did exactly what I told him to do.,” she said. “When he saw that car coming, he stopped, he jumped back. I was the most proud bus driver in the whole world that day.”
Red Hook Schools Superintendent Paul Finch told the Observer he hopes the incident will remind local drivers to drive safely near school buses.
“Our school bus drivers, along with school bus drivers everywhere, have an incredibly difficult job. They are tasked with transporting our most precious cargo, in the safest manner possible, in all types of weather conditions. It is unfortunate that some individuals add to the difficulties bus drivers face by driving recklessly,” Finch said.
He also praised the driver’s care for her charges. “It is an indication of her deep concern for our students’ welfare, that [she] did everything in her power to help police identify the reckless driver so that it would not happen again. It is my hope that this incident will serve as a reminder to all drivers that the safety of our children is a community concern that we take very seriously in Red Hook,” Finch said.