MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Video released by the Minnesota State Patrol showing a young girl nearly being hit by an SUV will surely make any parent’s heart skip a beat.
Authorities are hoping it also causes outrage toward distracted drivers, who are blowing through school bus stop arms with alarming frequency.
The incident captured on camera happened January 16, 2019, along Wabasha County Road 7, just outside Mazeppa.
Elementary school bus driver Jim Perrotti had his red lights flashing and the stop arm out. He had stopped and was waiting on the two-lane county road where 10-year-old Ambriel Johnson and her younger brother were to board.
“I was waiting — excuse me,” Perrotti starts to say as he chokes with emotion.
The bus driver of 38 years breaks down thinking of what could have been.
“Not on my watch, no. And like I said, he just kept coming,” Perrotti said.
The driver of a red SUV headed toward the bus in the oncoming lane.
Onboard video from inside the bus captures the frightening moment Ambriel Johnson nearly lost her life. The 20-year-old male driver blows through the stop arm, missing the fourth grader by mere inches.
“Yes, it’s very hard to look at. Your heart stops and you’re sick, you feel sick,” said Pat Johnson, Ambriel’s father.
The video is so powerful and upsetting that Perrotti can’t bring himself to relive it.
“I have no intention on watching it, it’s up here, I don’t need to replay it,” Perrotti said.
The driver was located and pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor. He received a $300 fine and ordered to perform community service.
“We can’t enforce our way out of this or rely on fines to change behavior. We need motorists to pay attention,” said Brian Reu, State Patrol lieutenant.
For the soft-spoken Ambriel, she hopes some good can come from her near tragedy.
Ambriel hopes drivers will “stop when people cross and come through.”
In the last five years, the state has cited more than 6,500 drivers for stop arm violations. The message here is clear: pay attention. A child’s life may depend on it.