School Bus Stop Arms Are Being Ignored: How to Fix That

Last updated on September 16th, 2018 at 02:58 pm

school bus stop sign armWithin the next several weeks most or all schools across the country will be back in session.  Some already are.  Last year, as in previous years, many of the headlines were about school shootings.  These are tragedies by every definition. However these are well covered in the media as are many steps to prevent future occurrences.  There have also been recent headlines about tragic school bus crashes and this is perhaps the subject of a different article.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that by design and other factors, school buses are the safest transportation method to get children to and from school.  Most injuries and fatalities happen off the bus.

In this piece I want to instead focus on a different school hazard and that is the act of driving past school bus stop arms.  We will not likely hear much about this in the media until a group of students is run down.

Once a year the state of Kansas conducts a survey asking bus companies/drivers to participate. 

  • For 30 days they ask the drivers to record and report the number of times other drivers pass an extended stop arm sign.
  • In the most recent survey (2017) nearly 10,000 occurrences of stop arm violations were reported.
  • Simply multiply this number by 50 states and there could be as many as 500,000 stop arm violations each and every month school is in session.

The laws may vary by state, whether the road is divided and if so how many lanes etc.  Confusing laws is no excuse for violating laws- for putting children’s lives in jeopardy.  In one study up to 2% of all violations are on the passenger side- the side where the door is when students are being off loaded.  The side where the curb is; where students gather to wait for the bus.  This is not allowed in any state for any reason. Think about it 2% of 500,000 is 10,000.  The number and the potential is staggering.  This risk is real.  A child hit by a vehicle going often 25 plus MPH has little chance of a good outcome-  perhaps little chance of surviving.

What can be done.

Know the laws and obey them.  Talk about stop arm safety at back to school orientations and PTA meetings.  Get your local police involved.  Have them wait at known high hazard bus stops.  Contact local TV and radio stations ask them to run public service announcements (PSA’s).  There has been considerable media in the past – there is chilling video.  This is a story with a real human interest.  Consider stop arm cameras.  These specialized cameras make it easier to prosecute violators. A few states don’t require stop arms on school buses- ask your legislators to reconsider.

What you should not do.

Don’t wait until tragedy strikes your area- a car strikes a child- a child is crippled or killed.  Don’t regret that perhaps being proactive could have prevented the loss. Don’t assume someone else in your community is taking care of this.  The more people involved- the higher the success.

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About the Author

Jim is a transportation safety expert with more than 40 years in both the emergency medical services and the school bus industries. Jim is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team and is proud to have been one of the original contributors to PediatricSafety.net more than 9 years ago.

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