Indiana Works to Improve School Bus Stop Safety
published on May 21, 2021 by Sonia Mastros
We recently came across a short article from School Transportation News discussing Indiana's plans to expand usage, penalties, and enforcement of stop-arm cameras on their school buses.
There's no doubt that illegal passing is one of the biggest threats to school bus safety, as well as the safety of its passengers. Children are most at risk when entering or leaving the bus, so it makes sense that this would be a focus. But are stop-arm cameras the best solution
The Hazy Research Behind Stop-Arm Cameras
The plain truth is that actual hard research into the effectiveness of stop-arm cameras in preventing illegal passing is extremely scarce. It's even more scarce when you discount research done by the same companies selling the cameras. They may brag about how many motorists are ticketed per day, but good luck finding hard "before and after" numbers documenting incidents.
Ticketing is all well and good, but it's a reactive measure. Fundamentally, every ticket represents a motorist who disregarded the stop-arm, despite the laws. This really is not a good measurement of how much safer stop-arm cameras make students, but it's usually the only measurement on offer.
Add to that the high cost of implementing stop-arm cameras, and it's questionable whether they provide substantial benefit. At the least, stop-arm cameras should not be your only solution to improving school bus safety at bus stops.
Multiple Measures Are Needed To Reduce Stop-Arm Violations
We aren't saying to not implement stop-arm cameras, but they should not be your only line of defense. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put out guides that focus on the importance of taking a multi-pronged approach to reducing stop-arm violations. For example:
1. Public Education
Stop-arm enforcement calls for robust attempts to engage with the public. After all, expanded fines and penalties will have no deterrence effect at all if nobody knows the law has changed. The NHTSA suggests taking out billboard ads and similar messaging that faces the roadway directly, rather than relying on TV or radio.
2. More/Brighter Lights
One of the most effective ways of reducing stop-arm violations may be the simplest: adding more lights to the bus, and making them brighter. Districts have seen genuine reductions in illegal passing from this very cheap and easy school bus safety upgrade.
3. Legal Bodies Willing and Able To Enforce
If you are going to rely on stop-arm cameras, dedicated enforcement is an absolute necessity. If your city/county/state doesn't bother prosecuting, the effort will fail. Your local governments must be on your side.
Illegal stop-arm passing is definitely one of the biggest threats to school bus safety. What measures does your district take to confront the problem? Share your experiences in the comments!