“Unfortunately, passing a school bus when a signal arm is extended is all too common…”
Many are often surprised to learn that approximately one-third of UMA member companies operate home-to-school buses. The size of the fleets vary from just a few school buses to hundreds, and reflect the diversity of our industry and the customers we serve. So today, we’re thinking “yellow.”
On Oct. 30, 2018, a 24-year-old and children’s director at a nearby church struck four children crossing the road at school bus stop while returning from driving her husband to work. The school bus lights were flashing, and the stop arm was deployed.
Three of the children from the same family died as a result of their injuries. The young lady whose vehicle struck the children was charged with three counts of reckless homicide, criminal recklessness and a misdemeanor count of passing a school bus when a signal arm is extended. She currently faces a maximum prison sentence of 21.5 years. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.
At the time of the crash, three children were riding in her vehicle, including her own little brother. It is doubtful she could have anticipated how the events of the morning would unfold. Unfortunately, passing a school bus when a signal arm is extended is all too common, and now Congress is weighing in.
U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 2218 – “Stop for School Buses Act of 2019” in the House on April 10, 2019, in direct response to the incident in northern Indiana and the increasing number of drivers passing a school bus when the signal arm is extended.
“Every driver has a responsibility to exercise caution when students are present, and that includes never passing a school bus that is stopped with red lights flashing or its stop arm extended,” said Congresswoman Walorski.
If passed, the Act will require the Secretary of Transportation to conduct research and implement certain safety measures and programs to prevent illegal passing of school buses. More specifically, the bill requires the Secretary to: (A) prepare a compilation of illegal passing laws in all states, including levels of enforcement and penalties and enforcement issues with such laws and the impact of such laws on illegal passing of school buses in each state; (B) review existing state laws that may inhibit effective school bus loading zone countermeasures, which may include laws requiring camera visibility of a driver’s face for enforcement action, laws that may reduce stop arm camera effectiveness, the need for an officer to witness the event for enforcement and the lack of primary enforcement for texting and driving; (C) evaluate methods used by states to review, document and report to law enforcement school bus stop arm violations; and (D) following the completion of the compilation, issue recommendations on best practices on the most effective approaches to address illegal passing of school buses.
Additionally, the bill requires the USDOT to: (A) review driver education materials across all states to determine whether and how illegal passing of school buses is addressed in driver education materials, manuals, non-CDL testing and road tests; and (B) make recommendations on how states can improve education about illegal passing of school buses, particularly with new drivers.
“We need to do more to educate drivers and to assess new technologies that can prevent illegal school bus passing,” said Congresswoman Brownley. Kids’ lives depend on it.
As the general experts on passenger transportation and safety in our respective communities, we are often called upon to provide advice on making safe transportation choices. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should likely always stress school bus rules and what to do when the stop arm is extended.
School bus operations are generally regulated at the state level, and as safety professionals we should likely support efforts directed at making school bus travel safer for our children and grandchildren.
In summary, the bipartisan Stop for School Buses Act (H.R. 2218) proposes to enhance state efforts to prevent illegal passing by directing the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to conduct a comprehensive review of existing laws and programs, recommend best practices and create a nationwide public safety campaign.
We’re thinking yellow for a moment as safety professionals, but H.R. 2218 definitely gets the green light today. Let me know what you think by emailing me at email@example.com.