HAINES CITY, Fla. - A young girl is recovering from a concussion and broken leg after getting hit by a van early Wednesday morning in Haines City. Investigators say seven-year-old Vanessa Perez was crossing the road to get on her school bus.
The driver of the van that hit her, Glenn McCarthy of Kissimmee, is accused of ignoring all the flashing warnings to stop.
Bridget Holmes ran outside after she heard tires screeching followed by a loud thud and screaming
"I noticed the little girl was just laying in the middle of the road," she said. "The little girl is so little, seven years old. It’s pitiful!"
The driver of the van stopped and joined others who rushed to help the victim. Perez is currently listed in serious condition at Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando.
"There's a reason these buses have stop signs that come out from the bus with flashing lights," said Carrie Eleazer, Spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
McCarthy was booked into the Polk County Jail late Wednesday. As of now, he faces a charge of willful reckless driving along with a citation for ignoring the warning system on the bus.
The Polk County School District recently did a survey of roughly 400 bus drivers and in just one day, they counted 290 violations.
"The numbers are staggering," said Rob Davis, Senior Director of Support Services for the district.
Even before the accident, school leaders looked into a trial program that would place a few red light-style cameras on the traffic arms to catch drivers ignoring the warnings.
On Tuesday that pilot program got put on hold.
"Unfortunately, the company has been under investigation in Chicago," Davis said. "We were unaware of that situation, and of course that raises concerns for us."
The district is currently looking at other companies that offer similar cameras to help deter impatient drivers.
For now, they're trying to re-educate the public that the stop signs hooked to buses are not optional.
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