Extra Red Lights to Reduce Illegal School Bus Passing
published on May 01, 2018 by Sonia MastrosWithout a doubt, one of the biggest threats to the safety of students riding school buses is other drivers. Illegal school bus passing is a huge problem nationwide. Ongoing studies in recent years have suggested that it happens tens of thousands of times every day and each school-bus passing has the possibility of causing accidents or injuries.
While illegal school bus passing is a problem that may not go away entirely, some studies have suggested that many illegal passers may not be doing it maliciously. Rather, they aren’t paying enough attention and simply don't notice the bus stopping until it’s too late for them to stop smoothly.
This opens up the possibility of an extremely affordable option for reducing illegal stop-arm passing: Adding more red lights to your bus fleet.
Can More Lights Reduce Illegal School Bus Passing?
The theory here is attractively simple: If the problem is that too many everyday drivers are distracted and don't notice buses stopping until it’s too late, add more lights so they’ll notice.
Several school districts in Iowa have seen a dramatic decrease in illegal school bus passing after installing extra warning lights on their buses. According to “…Decrease in Illegal Passing”, it seems to have a real effect. Schools have been launching pilot programs adding additional red flashing lights to their buses, particularly above the rear bumper – positioned to be near eye level for most drivers in cars.
Those districts trying this tactic saw dramatic results: Rather than counting stop-arm violations per week, they were counting them per month instead!
On top of that, extra lights are extremely affordable to install, generally only costing a few hundred dollars per bus. It wouldn’t be hard to find that money in the budget, or convince the town to pay for it, if it could significantly improve the safety of school buses.
This approach also contrasts with another option for preventing illegal bus passing: stop-arm cameras. Stop-arm cameras have been shown to have some deterrent value, but they can be expensive to install as well as often being controversial with the public. Some states are so dubious of them, they’re considering banning stop-arm cameras.
By contrast, extra lighting would be far more acceptable by the driving public, and not something likely to receive interference from state or federal government.
Is More Lighting the Answer?
This is an area of ongoing research, but so far the results are extremely promising. There is a lot of reason to think that adding a few additional red flashing lights onto the front and back of a bus is an effective way of stopping illegal school bus passing.
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What do you think? Is the solution really so simple? Is your district discussing ways of preventing stop-arm passing? Let’s talk about it: