Montana House Bills for School Bus Safety
published on May 18, 2021 by Sonia Mastros
How do we protect students from cars passing illegally, while they're entering or exiting the bus? This is probably one of the biggest questions in the field of school bus safety, and one that continues to be studied intently. For many states, the popular answer is to install stop-arm cameras, but there are other alternatives - and Montana is set to explore those alternatives.
Their plan could potentially be more effective than stop-arm cameras while costing less.
How Montana Wants To Improve School Bus Safety
The Montana House of Reps recently passed two bills changing school bus safety regulations. The first removes a limitation on how many lights a school bus is allowed to have, allowing districts to install more and brighter warning lights on their buses. The second allows for the implementation of extra-long stop-arms that deliberately extend into the next traffic lane.
To us, this approach seems smart in multiple ways.
For one thing, adding better warning lights to school buses has been genuinely linked to reduced illegal passing. The theory behind them is simply that many illegal bus passings may not be caused by deliberate maliciousness, but by drivers failing to notice the bus stopping until it's too late for them to safely stop. Make the warning lights more prominent, and drivers will stop on time.
Districts implementing these lights have often seen dramatic results, with reductions in illegal passing often dropping by 50% or more.
The utility value of the extra-long stop arms is even more clear. If the stop arms are physically blocking the left lane, that's going to severely discourage other passenger vehicles from passing illegally.
Plus, this approach brings two more benefits. It's far less intrusive and prone to abuse than stop-arm cameras can potentially be. Also, these measures would be far less expensive to implement than stop-arm cameras. A typical bus can be outfitted with more lights for just a few hundred dollars, which is an upgrade that almost any district could afford. Extended stop-arms are also inexpensive, compared to the costs of sticking cameras and associated hardware onto every bus.
School Bus Safety Needs To Be Looked Into Carefully
Will Montana's new safety initiatives be successful? Only time will tell, but it looks promising. We'll be watching closely for reports and statistics, assuming these House bills become law.
What do you think? Has your district investigated different potential tactics for dealing with illegal passing? Let's talk about it in the comments!