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August 14, 2012  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Stop-arm running in the crosshairs

Since the West Virginia Department of Education sent me the footage of a middle school student nearly being struck by a car illegally passing his school bus, I’ve probably watched it at least a dozen times. I can’t help but think of one of my own kids in that frightening situation.

by Thomas McMahon - Also by this author


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The video never ceases to shock me.

Since the West Virginia Department of Education sent me the footage of a middle school student nearly being struck by a car illegally passing his school bus, I’ve probably watched it at least a dozen times as I wrote an article and worked on getting it posted to our website. With each viewing, I get a sinking feeling as the boy unknowingly walks toward the oncoming car, looking up at the last second as it just barely misses him.

I can’t help but think of one of my own kids in that frightening situation. The boy’s mother didn’t even have to imagine it — she was watching from her front porch, as West Virginia state pupil transportation director Ben Shew told me.

Despite almost losing her son, the mother agreed to let Shew’s office distribute the footage so it could be used for public awareness and driver training. And so it has: Shew said that they’ve gotten many requests for it, even from other states.

See our story about the response to the near-miss incident, as well as West Virginia’s other efforts to catch and prevent stop-arm running here. To watch the video, go here.

This being our annual Safety Issue, we felt that it was a good time to again put the spotlight on stop-arm running — a topic that we’ve covered many times before but that remains one of the top safety risks in pupil transportation.

In addition to the West Virginia story, we have a roundup of stop-arm camera systems. Adding to the camera theme, the pictorial for our ever-popular annual Photo Contest can be seen here.

And then there’s the cover photo, which is unlike any we’ve had in recent memory. The first thing you should know about it — although you may have already guessed — is that it’s a staged shot.

Mike Connors, director of transportation for Brevard Public Schools in Cocoa, Fla., and his staff graciously dedicated their time and energy to provide this eye-catching cover photo for us. And it was no easy task.

Here’s a taste of what was involved in the shoot: a new school bus, a bus driver, two elementary school students (who are the daughters of a Brevard bus driver), two photographers, a deputy sheriff for traffic control, a “cherry picker” truck and cars to pose as stop-arm runners.

The transportation staff identified a good location for the shoot, secured permission from the school district and notified law enforcement of their plans.

Arby Creach, assistant director of transportation, and Sharon Hanzl, administrative assistant — both knowledgeable photographers — were behind the cameras.

They took numerous shots, including many from high above the ground in the cherry picker truck’s bucket. One of those shots appears in the opening of the aforementioned stop-arm camera roundup.

It was tough to pick one of the many great photos for the cover, but we’re thrilled with — and grateful for — the end result.

Many thanks to Mike, Arby, Sharon, the students and everyone else who was involved in this impressive production.


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