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Dec 5, 2017 4:07 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport Bus Driver Saves Student On Her Route

Shirley Jacobsen with her school bus. KATE RIGA
Dec 11, 2017 12:34 PM

Like most of bus driver Shirley Jacobsen’s young passengers, Ari has a special routine when she drops him off each afternoon following classes at Clayton Huey Elementary School in Center Moriches. Backpack on, the kindergartner carefully clambers down the first step before summoning the courage to take a flying leap down the final three stairs—and into the waiting arms of his father.

Ms. Jacobsen said she was following her normal route one afternoon last month when she pulled over on the right side of the street and spotted Ari’s father waiting for him at the bottom of their driveway. She remembers easing open the door of her Adelwerth Bus Company bus and hearing Ari giggling as he climbed down the first step, preparing for his upcoming leap.

But, just at that moment, a motion blur caught her attention.

She quickly realized it was a car speeding along the right shoulder, its driver preparing to pass her stopped school bus—and, more horrifying, on track to collide with Ari, mid-flight.

Without time to think, Ms. Jacobsen lunged sideways out of her chair and, while still restrained by her seatbelt, managed to grab a fistful of Ari’s oversized backpack, pulling the child tumbling back into the bus.

The car roared away, leaving Mr. Jacobsen shaken from the experience. When she finally collected herself, she left Ari and his father hugging in their driveway, and continued on her route—as she has every school day for 37 years.

The near-miss, while terrifying, is not particularly rare, according to the 63-year-old Eastport resident.

“People just don’t care anymore. People pass by when I have my ‘reds’ on every day,” Ms. Jacobsen said, referring to the bus’s flashing hazard lights. “It’s frustrating.”

Ari’s father, who could not be reached this week, now parks on the shoulder near his driveway to physically prevent cars from repeating the dangerous maneuver, according to Ms. Jacobsen.

She also noted that instances of impatient and aggressive drivers ignoring her hazard lights and passing her stopped bus are much more frequent on busy streets, such as Frowein Road in Center Moriches, where last month’s incident occurred.

In New York State, fines for passing a stopped school bus range from $250 to $1,000, with a revoked license if the driver commits three violations in three years, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. But in order for a driver to be punished, a bus driver must submit the license number of the offending vehicle, as well as its make and color—information that can be challenging, if not downright impossible, to collect in the split-second that such incidents can occur.

“It’s very rare that you can get a plate number,” Ms. Jacobsen said. “It just happens too fast.

“All I remember is that it was a silver four-door [car], and that he looked me right in the face,” she added. “If I’d had a bowling ball, I would have thrown it right at him.”

Don Rogers, dispatcher at Adelwerth Bus Company, based in Eastport, says that stories like Ms. Jacobsen’s are common from his bus drivers.

“Drivers usually don’t pass stopped buses on the shoulders, but it does happen on occasion,” he said on Tuesday. In general, he says that cars are passing stopped buses more and more frequently. “They pretend like they don’t notice my bus stopped and just drive around—I always yell out my window at them,” he said. “Luckily, Shirley is a very good employee, very safety-conscious and quite possibly saved that student’s life.”

“I don’t like to toot a horn—this is just something I’m trained for,” Ms. Jacobsen said. “It’s second nature to all of us at Adelwerth’s.

“It’s such a small company—there are only 35 drivers right now,” she continued. “We’re like a family. We help each other out with safety tips and warnings all the time.”

Ms. Jacobsen has familial sentiments about the students who ride her buses as well, encouraging her protective instinct. Prior to her placement in Center Moriches, she worked in the Remsenburg-Speonk School District for 21 years.

“She calls the students ‘her kids,’” said Ms. Jacobsen’s husband, Tom. “When they lost the contract in Remsenburg, the parents were so upset that they threw a party for her.”

As for Mr. Rogers, he worries that, eventually, a tragedy will occur, pointing to the growing number of drivers who continue to flout the law and put the lives of children in danger.

“I’m really afraid that a car will pass and something will happen, and we’ll have a real tragedy on our hands,” he said.

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SHIRLEY is a hero from a family of heros. I'm proud to know her and Tom.
By Michael Jacobs (11), Westhampton Beach on Dec 5, 17 8:40 PM
That's my girl!!
By Tom Jacobsen (2), Eastport on Dec 7, 17 4:06 PM
Great job!
By Moral Dolphin (25), Southampton on Dec 8, 17 7:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
What a scary ordeal for this amazing bus driver. What’s wrong with people?! I hear stories all too often about people ignoring the Buses Stop signs. Are there cameras on the buses? Install them an ticket theses law breakers up the a**, increase the fines an use half the money to pay for these cameras to be installed and to pay for public service announcements to remind these half wits that a stopped school bus means they stop too. Plz let’s not wait for a tragedy to happen

By toes in the water (684), southampton on Dec 13, 17 6:54 AM
I'm surprised that it does not appear there are cameras on buses. They are so inexpensive these days.
By Rich Morey (331), East Hampton on Dec 16, 17 5:45 PM
Shirley used to pick me up way back in the day! Always a pleasure and a greta person overall!!! Kudos!!
By category5631 (3), Hampton Bays on Dec 13, 17 3:15 PM
Awesome job!

How about dashcams on every bus, so the video can be played in court.
By Mr. Z (10537), North Sea on Dec 14, 17 9:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
A very good and inexpensive suggestion Z.
By dnice (2340), Hampton Bays on Dec 16, 17 1:30 PM