School Bus Safety: Optimizing Driver Views
published on July 06, 2021 by Sonia Mastros
When a bus stops and children are loading or unloading, you'd want to think the driver is in full control of the situation - but they aren't. Buses, by their nature, have massive blind spots which impact the driver's visibility. This is a school bus safety issue when the bus is stopped or moving, but it's a particular hazard when children are nearby or in those blind spots.
Fortunately, there are some solutions available. None are perfect, but all are worth investigating to help improve safety around school buses.
Four Potential Solutions For School Bus Blind Spots
1 - Larger/wider mirrors
The most basic solution for improving driver visibility is using larger mirrors with wider fields of view. This is cheap to implement, but mirrors alone won't entirely eliminate blind spots. Larger mirrors are also easier to break, and wide fields of view may make it difficult for the driver to perceive specials relationships between objects nearby.
2 - Blind spot cameras
Another popular solution is to install a couple cameras on either side of the bus, aimed into the blind spots. These feed into small screens in the driver's compartment, allowing them to visually observe everything going on. In terms of cost versus performance, this is probably one of the more solid upgrades - although high def cameras can get pricey.
3 - 360-degree cameras
A more advanced version of basic blind spot cameras, these use multiple cameras along with AI interpolation to create full 3D views of the entire area around a bus. They can even extrapolate a bird's eye view without an overhead camera. This is great for maintaining visibility, but these systems can be pricey - and will require professional installation and tuning to work properly.
4 - AI collision warning systems
The same advanced radar/lidar systems currently used in many cars and trucks can also be installed in buses. These AI systems monitor everything happening around a bus, and warn of potential collisions and other obstacles. However, these systems are not cheap. Also, it's somewhat questionable how much difference they'll make in a potential collision situation. Buses are not quick to move, and, for example, if a nearby car has drifted out of its lane, there may not be much a bus driver can do about it even with a few seconds' extra warning.
In short, there's no perfect option for removing a school bus's blind spots. However, this is still a major school bus safety issue that districts need to address.
How has your district dealt with the problem of blind spots? Please share your stories in the comments!