Because safety in the loading and unloading zone remains a top concern for school bus operators, many are beginning to use new devices to detect the presence of students when they are near the vehicle at the bus stop.
One such device is the Student Detection System (SDSTM) by Rostra Precision Controls in Laurinburg, N.C. The system has been successful in making bus operators breathe a little easier when pulling out or reversing in pick-up and drop-off areas.
The SDS has sensors on the front, rear and both sides of the bus. When a child is detected in one of those areas, an alarm signals an audio and visual alert to the driver. The SDS display panel, located on or near the dashboard, will then indicate the location of the child by zone with a red light.
"If there is somebody in that danger zone, you can put the brakes on and get out and look," said George Sontag Jr., transportation director at Centerville City Schools in Ohio. Centerville recently added seven new buses to its fleet and installed the SDS in each one.
When a student enters the danger zone, an alarm goes off for four seconds. When no intrusion or movement is detected for a period of four seconds, a green light will illuminate, indicating that it is safe for the operator to proceed. Sontag said the real safety factor is the four-second delay when the system is turned off. This feature ensures the safety of those who might enter the danger zones during those four seconds.
Dennis Woods, director of pupil transportation at Yadkin County (N.C.) Schools, believes the system forces operators to be even more aware of their surroundings. "When the alarm goes off on the bus, the driver [has to] take a closer look than what he or she already has," he said. Woods plans to install the SDS on more buses when his budget permits.
"Driving a school bus is so repetitious. You drive the same route, the same kids," said Sontag. With the system activated by the turn of the ignition key and eight-way flasher lights, he said, an operator can feel safer knowing this system is on and operating.
The SDS, of course, does not replace standard procedures, and those safety precautions should always be taken.
— THUY CHU