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School bus safety highlighted after girl hit

8-year-old's father says it could have been worse

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – She was hit by a pickup truck at the foot of her driveway, right in front of her mom.

Eight-year-old Grace Barmad had just gotten off a school bus Tuesday afternoon on Roscoe Boulevard in Ponte Vedra Beach. State troopers say 17-year-old Jason King failed to stop as children were exiting the bus, which had its lights and stop signs activated.

"It's a lesson for all of us to be more mindful when we're driving, especially when it comes to school buses," her dad said. "It could've been a lot worse, and we're grateful that it wasn't a lot worse."

St. Johns County Director of Transportation Joe Purvis said the bus driver did what he was supposed to do but is clearly upset by the incident.

"You'll hear any bus driver talk about, they'll talk about their kids," Purvis said. "And when they talk about their kids, they're talking about the kids they drive each day. And so when he saw it, that's somebody he's been responsible for each year and really something just really, really scary and tragic that just happened all of a sudden. So it was a tough couple days for him and obviously (he) just needs to work through that."

Purvis explained the proper protocol for bus drivers to follow by law.

"We activate yellows about 200 feet prior, and that should alert the public, and then at the bus stop we activate what's called the reds," Purvis said.

The red stop sign and arm indicate kids are getting on or off the bus.

The students are required to stay seated until the bus is fully stopped. They aren't allowed to move around because if, for instance, someone were to rear-end the bus, the seats would provide extra protection.

Once the bus is stopped, the kids are able to get off. When they're off, they'll wait right in front of the bus, look at their bus driver, who will check for traffic. Once the driver sees it's safe, he or she will signal for the kids to cross, and then the students will cross safely.

If the road is divided by a raised barrier or 5-foot-wide median, cars on the opposite side of the road do not have to stop.

Purvis said if you're not sure, play it safe and stop before another child gets hurt.

"Everybody seems to go fast nowadays," he said. "Just be aware there are a lot of kids out there, and in our school district totally, that's some 33,000 going to school, and the school buses and the number we transport and all our surrounding districts in your viewing area all have the same thing going on right now."