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July 26, 2012  |   Comments (13)   |   Post a comment

Bus driver’s invention targets student crossing safety

By Kelly Roher


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The STEFFI Crossing Enhancer can be worn on a bare hand or over a glove. In New York state, bus drivers are required to use this thumb and forefinger technique when crossing students.

The STEFFI Crossing Enhancer can be worn on a bare hand or over a glove. In New York state, bus drivers are required to use this thumb and forefinger technique when crossing students.

ANGOLA, N.Y. — A school bus driver here has invented a piece of equipment designed to assist students as they prepare to cross the street to board the bus, or after they have disembarked.

The STEFFI Crossing Enhancer, to be worn on the back of a driver’s hand, was developed and created by Victoria DeCarlo, a 19-year bus driver who works for Lake Shore Central School District. It comprises a gray reflective arrow on a bright yellow background with an orange border. It also has an elastic finger loop at the top, and there is a wrist strap.  

DeCarlo told SBF in an interview that the STEFFI can be worn on a driver’s bare hand, and it will fit under a glove if the driver is wearing gloves before operating the bus. It can also be worn over a glove on either hand, and its colors and reflective arrow are highly visible through the windshield of a school bus, and from a distance. In addition, because the STEFFI is worn on the back of the hand, she said that it does not affect a driver’s ability to operate the bus.

DeCarlo’s idea for the STEFFI stemmed from concerns she had from a stop on her route at Steffi Dr., which intersects with another road.

“We pick up students on a main road,” she explained. “The students all walk to a corner, and it was complete chaos because you have cars going in three different directions and the headlights were making it difficult for all to see each other. Students were struggling to see my hand signal indicating that it was safe to cross, and my gut was telling me that something could happen in this area.”

(In New York state, school bus drivers are required to use a thumb and forefinger technique when directing students to cross the street.)

DeCarlo approached Lake Shore Transportation Supervisor Perry Oddi with her concerns, and he suggested working on a product using the reflective tape that is sewn on her safety vest. She took the idea and ran with it, ultimately creating the STEFFI.

DeCarlo has received positive feedback for her invention. She ran a three-day pilot program with the students she transports, who told her that it was more helpful than when she used her bare hand to signal them to cross the street.

Her co-workers have also benefitted from the STEFFI. “When I showed it to them after I made it, they said they wanted one because they face the same struggles in helping students cross,” DeCarlo said.

She then approached the Lake Shore Central School District board to show the STEFFI to the members and discuss the success the drivers were having in testing them. Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Administration and Finance Dan Pacos approached DeCarlo after the board meeting and committed to purchasing STEFFIs for all of the district's bus drivers.

"They are now mandated at Lake Shore," DeCarlo said. "Every school bus will also be equipped with 'STEFFI On Hand Kits,' which consist of three back-up STEFFIs in a clear vinyl bag."

In addition, starting this school year, when students receive their bus safety instruction, they will be taught to look for the STEFFI before they cross a street prior to boarding or after disembarking their bus. 

Victoria DeCarlo, bus driver for Lake Shore Central School District and inventor of the STEFFI, hopes to see it in use at operations around the country.
<p>Victoria DeCarlo, bus driver for Lake Shore Central School District and inventor of the STEFFI, hopes to see it in use at operations around the country.</p>
The STEFFI was also well received by transportation supervisors during a recent New York Association for Pupil Transportation event, and DeCarlo said officials at a First Student terminal in the area have expressed interest in getting STEFFIs for their drivers because of the drivers’ positive experience in testing it.  

For more information about the product, visit www.steffiproducts.com.


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Read more about: New York


Excellent idea, should it be mandatory?

joe miranda    |    Dec 18, 2012 10:41 PM

Excellent idea but will it actually be used by drivers?

Joe Miranda    |    Oct 18, 2012 04:36 PM

We here in New York use that same hand signal for wait and stop. Once we check for traffic we point letting them know that it is now safe to proceed.They are also taught their responsibility is to look both ways before they proceed to cross. Whether the bus driver is telling them to go. If they forget to look they are reminded while they are in the stairwell to do so next time. So that goes the same for New York that students are not to completely rely on the bus driver. I too appreciate new innovations in our industry!

Thomas    |    Aug 01, 2012 09:47 AM

Here in Ohio we are not allowed to point. We raise our hand to tell them to wait, once we check for traffic we can lower our hand. Kids should not be so reliant on someone that is inside the bus. We must still teach them to look for traffic when crossing. It still excites me to see new innovations in our industry.

Chris    |    Aug 01, 2012 06:15 AM

I have been driving a school bus in CA for 23 years and I agree with escorting the students across the street ourselves. Although I applaud the driver for making a device for students to see the direction better but I too saw the video of the student that was continually watching the driver and not watching traffic and he was inches away from getting hit by a car.so that is one reason I prefer the driver crossing the student, in that particular situation we would not have crossed at that point do to it being to close to the corner we do have guidelines in place for safety we do not cross at every corner or on every street. North East our busses are equipped so that when you leave the seat with your key for crossing the lights still work and the only way for the parking brake to be pushed is if the key is in the on postition so that rules that out. procedure is also in place so that the driver is off the bus first to watch all students exit safely to cross. I do agree that someone could step on bus without the driver there but then again that has happened even with the driver there. I don't believe there will ever be a complete save way for students to cross the street, however we do try to do it the safest way possible.

Debbie    |    Jul 30, 2012 05:37 PM

Way to go Victoria!!!! I knew this would be a huge hit so proud of you!!!! dont forget your friends when yu are a big-wig ceo lol! this is such a fabulous safety device for all districts!!! hope it catches on quick!!

deb b.    |    Jul 28, 2012 09:43 AM

I saw the video on how the STEFFI works and I think it is an amazing idea. Ideally, I think that each child should be crossed by an adult bus aide, not the actual bus driver. I would not allow my child to ride a bus knowing that it would be left unattened. Working in the school district, I know we do not have the money to hire an aide for each and every bus therefore, I would say the STEFFI is the next best thing. California, i hope your luck never runs out!!!!!

Mary E    |    Jul 28, 2012 09:19 AM

The STEFFI has made a big difference in my students ability to see my hand signal. I use it daily even now on my summer runs. Summer sun makes it hard to see sometimes but the reflective arrow works great. Love my STEFFI!

Carol Hughes    |    Jul 27, 2012 01:40 PM

I can't believe California's bus drivers disembark from their buses and cross the students! Rendering the school bus unintended to possibly unruly students that can push the emergency brake in and the bus rolling possibly over the driver or it rolling into on coming traffic! There are students out there with these capability's that's why buses are equipped with cameras because behavior like this unfortunately exist! California we don't have your nice weather conditions here we would be slipping and falling all the time,getting hurt and would run out of sub drivers to replace us.When the driver leaves the bus I hope they take the keys with them and if they do how do the red flashing lights work without the key in place? How do they know if a student didn't slip out the door while they were gone? Or "Stranger danger" doesn't step onto the bus while they are gone. It's our jobs to keep all safe at all times Not one at a time. From a Veteran, dedicated school bus driver.

North East    |    Jul 27, 2012 11:14 AM

I agree, (i.e. Steve B. comment)that if states would adopt the driver escort procedure, hand jestures would not be necessary. A parent would never allow a child to cross an intersection or street by themselves even when the signal light is green for crossing, but they allow them to cross in front of a school bus. I would never give my child permission to cross the street without me or his mother unless they were holding my hand. I probably would not allow them to ride the school bus if my district would require them to cross in front of the bus unescorted. Seems California does do this right. How can you argue that it is not?

DJ Evans    |    Jul 27, 2012 08:56 AM

This wouldn't be needed if the rest of the country escorted students across the street like California does, which I feel is the safest way to get students across the street. I saw that video the other day which showed a young student almost getting hit by a white car. That probably wouldn't happen in California. That was scarey. That student was very lucky!

Steven B    |    Jul 27, 2012 08:02 AM

Super cool! Thank you for your ingenuity and dedication to student safety.

Blue Sue    |    Jul 26, 2012 11:19 AM

Awesome! Let's hope this doesn't take forever to catch on! Hey

Terry Schinnerer    |    Jul 26, 2012 11:15 AM

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