School Bus Safety: Are Lights Enough?
published on November 09, 2018 by Sonia Mastros
Recently, we came across an interesting School Bus Fleet article about a petition proposing a change to school bus lighting systems that, according to the petitioner, would improve school bus safety. It's far from the first time such an idea was proposed. The problem of cars either ignoring or not seeing school bus warning lights consistently creates dangerous situations for student riders.
So let's take a look at some of the proposed solutions for dealing with stop arm violations, and how this new idea would have worked.
School Bus Safety: Are Lights the Solution to the Stop Arm Problem?
The solution proposed was to add an extra step in how school bus lights work. In most states, buses first have flashing amber lights which the driver manually toggles as the bus approaches a stop, followed by red lights which are triggered when the bus is stopped and the door opens. The petition suggested adding an intermediary stage, where both amber and red lights are flashing as a warning to drivers that a stop was immanent.
The argument was that this would give nearby drivers more opportunity to see the lights and stop for the bus.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) disagreed. They said, in so many words, there was no evidence that this would prevent stop arm violations and that the new light patterns could potentially even confuse motorists. So the petition was denied.
But was it a bad idea?
After all, there's no doubting that stop arm violations are a major school bus safety issue. The other popular option for preventing them is adding stop arm cameras, which catch and ticket offending motorists. However, there's minimal evidence that this approach actually reduces offenses. Several states with stop arm camera initiatives - including New York, Texas, and North Carolina - have struggled to show genuine results. Nor, in the bigger picture, is there much evidence to suggest steep penalties curb traffic violations in general.
On the other hand, several states have seen success with more lights. Simply making the lights more visible, and adding strobes, seems to legitimately reduce stop arm violations. This adds a lot of weight to the idea that most stop arm violators do so unintentionally, simply failing to see the existing lights in time to stop safely.
Would making the light patterns more complicated be an effective measure as well? It's hard to say, although current evidence would suggest any method of making the lights more prominent would be of benefit.
What do you think? Can stop arm violations be stopped by modifying a bus's light loadout? Let's talk about it below.