The “Danger Zone” remains an area of vital impor- tance, and some argue that more transportation funding should be directed to the area, that on average claims about twice as many student fatalities than on the bus in a given school year. School bus drivers today have numerous tools at their disposal to supplement their training and vastly reduce the risks of losing sight of riders in blinds spots as well as notifying other motorists that students are present. Half of the 12 to 15 student fatalities that occur each

year at school bus stops are the result of a motorist running the stop-arm and eight-way warning lights. As such, the federally mandated stop arm has grown increasingly sophisticated with larger letters, flashing LED lights and built-in video cameras to catch and fine violators. But the illegal passing problem persists. The 2019

state survey on illegally passing school buses, orga- nized by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, had 131,345 participating school bus drivers across 39 states count 95,494 motor- ists running their stop-arms on just one day. NASDPTS extrapolates that more than 17 million violations occur in a 180-day school year. An article in the April issue of School Transportation

News asked if illegal passing can be solved anytime soon. Apparently not, at least not without stricter laws on illegal passing and punishment for violators. “[Vendor] equipment is worthless without law en-

forcement and meaningful penalties in support of it,” commented Ned Einstein, a transportation consultant based in New York City and an STN editorial advisor. Iowa, for example, includes in its illegal passing laws

a provision that violators could receive a 30-day jail sentence for a first offense, in lieu of or in addition to a fine, and increasing the time to no more than one year for a second violation. But that is at the court’s discre- tion. The Iowa Department of Transportation, however, will suspend the motorist’s license for 30 days following a first violation, 60 days for a second and 180 days for a third and all subsequent offenses. Einstein suggested that the only true way to change

motorist behavior is to take vehicles away from viola- tors, not simply their driving privileges. “Suspending one’s license is a start, but most will just drive with- out it and simply risk a larger fine, if they’re caught … and they rarely will be, given the level of law enforce- ment,” he added.

50 School Transportation News • MAY 2020

The Next Best Solution? The problem with even the best stop-arm camera, explained Chris Akiyama, school bus vice president for Safe Fleet, is that video footage can only be utilized to fine violators after they’ve put children’s lives in danger. “Stop-arm cameras are reactive and punitive. They’re

not proactively warning the driver or the student that it’s not safe to cross the street,” said Akiyama, whose compa- ny also manufacturers stop-arm video camera systems. After two years of development, Seon—a Safe Fleet brand—released the first predictive stop arm last year. Using radar and predictive analytics, this unique device detects traffic speed, distance and direction. If the sys- tem detects that oncoming or following vehicles will not decelerate quickly enough to make the stop, it sounds an alarm to alert students to step back as well as a visible warning to school bus drivers.. “Video can be used to proactively notify drivers and

students of a probable stop-arm violation before it oc- curs,” Akiyama explained. Seon and Safe Fleet chose Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation near Indianapolis to test the new device. Traffic has become an increasing tension for the rural-urban district that operates 75 buses to transport 7,000 students daily. The congestion is so dense that many buses need a police escort to leave school grounds in the afternoon. “A lot of people from Indianapolis are moving down

here, so we’re expanding tremendously,” said Bob Downin, the district’s director of transportation. “Everything that we had on the buses before the

predictive stop-arm came about worked after the fact,” Downin said. “We got cameras on the bus that show the car going by and, yeah, we’re going to catch the driver, but I’d rather not hit the student to begin with.” To test the product, Downin ran a bicycle through the

stop-arm, and the system emitted an audible warning every time. Since then, Downin purchased seven pre- dictive stop-arms for his buses that operate on especially busy streets. While he said he’s witnessed countless numbers of near misses between an illegally passing vehicle and a crossing student, he discussed one particular incident that he can’t shake. It occurred in Fulton County, Indi- ana, located about 100 miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis, on Oct. 30, 2018. A then 24-year-old mo- torist struck 6-year-old twins, their 9-year-old stepsister and an 11-year old boy as they were crossing the road to

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