(BPT) - Did you know the most dangerous part of riding a school bus is when children get on or off the bus? Between distracted driving, the end of Daylight Saving Time and the busy holiday season, children are at greater risk this time of year, especially when drivers illegally pass a stopped school bus as it lets children embark or disembark.
The 2023 National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services illegal passing survey found the number of drivers passing stopped school buses is rising, projecting over 43.5 million illegal passings occurring across the 180-day school year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that this is one of the biggest risks to children who take the school bus, and although passing a stopped school bus with its stop arm extended is illegal in every state, drivers persist in breaking this law. This unnecessarily puts more than 25 million children at risk of being injured or killed every day.
What can be done about illegal school bus passing?
It would be impossible for local law enforcement to monitor all the traffic in and around school zones, as well as neighborhoods, to watch for illegal school bus passing. To confront this problem, one company, Verra Mobility, has developed two different solutions for schools and communities to help enhance their students' safety in and around school buses and school zones.
1. CrossingGuard. The school bus stop-arm safety solution incorporates all of the services required to enhance student safety, reduce illegal school bus passing, enforce traffic laws and change driver behavior. CrossingGuard provides a high-resolution stop-arm camera, physically attached to the school bus, that is deployed when the bus is picking up and dropping off students.
Confirmed data from the Verra Mobility school bus safety camera programs (32 total) during the 2022-2023 school year shows that 71,386 citations were issued to drivers for illegally passing the school bus stop arm. However, nearly 99% of the drivers who received and paid a ticket did not receive a second citation, indicating that the message was received, loud and clear. Collectively, Verra Mobility's school bus stop-arm safety programs witnessed a 12% reduction in citations from the beginning of the school year to the end.
How CrossingGuard works: High-definition cameras are installed on the exterior of the school bus, and when the school bus extends its stop arm, the system automatically detects vehicles passing the stopped bus within the enforcement zone. Cameras record a video of the passing vehicle, license plate and extended stop arm. The event data and images are wirelessly uploaded to Verra Mobility's back-office via a secure VPN, and are then processed according to the customer's business rules.
Law enforcement then receives and reviews the evidence and determines whether a violation has occurred. If there is a violation, a notice is issued and mailed to the vehicle owner. A bonus of the program is that the cameras for this solution are not funded by taxpayers, bonds or school fees. They are paid through the violations, so the system pays for itself.
2. Safe School Zone Speed Enforcement. Because 17% of children 14 and younger who are killed in traffic crashes are pedestrians, according to the NHTSA, it's crucial to keep children safe, especially when they're walking to and around school. School zone speed enforcement encourages traffic compliance to reduce the average vehicle speed and rate of dangerous driving.
This safety solution provides communities with an automated speed safety enforcement camera system to detect dangerous driving and to capture images of drivers speeding in school zones. When implemented, traffic slows before the school zone, improving pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist safety.
"Parents have enough on their plate without having to worry about their children's safety when they're going to and from school," said Melissa Wandall, president of the National Coalition for Safer Roads. "It's important for schools and communities to use the latest technology available to hold reckless drivers accountable, and to help keep kids safe."
To learn more about these innovative safety solutions and how they help protect all of the school children in your community, visit VerraMobility.com.