BENTON, La. — In an effort to thwart motorists who pass school buses while students are loading or unloading, a former transportation director invented a device called the School Bus Crossing Flag.
Charles Bennett developed the prototype for the flag in 1986, while he was working for Bossier Parish Schools.
“We had a terrible time with people driving by buses when they were stopped, with their red lights flashing and the crossing arm extended,” Bennett said. “After thinking about it for some time, I felt that this device would be a good way to solve the problem.”
Once Bennett built and received a patent on the flag, he had it installed on 10 of the district’s buses. He said the flag was successful in its purpose, but he believed that it would have mechanical problems in the long run.
After retiring from his post as chief civil deputy for the local sheriff’s office (a position he held for over a decade after retiring as Bossier Parish Schools’ transportation director), Bennett redesigned the mechanical portion of the flag.
“Initially, it was powered by a stop arm,” he explained. “It operated on spring-loaded cables and pulleys. The current flag has its own motor.”
The device mounts on the driver’s side of a school bus. The flag, which is attached to an arm that retracts into a tube when it is not in use, works in conjunction with a bus’ stop arm — both are activated by pushing the same switch. When activated, the flag extends 8 feet from the side of the bus, into the adjacent traffic lane. If a motorist tried to drive past a bus while the flag was extended, it would brush the vehicle’s windshield.
In mid-September, Scott Crain, a videographer, produced a DVD that depicts how the flag operates. At that time, Bennett had shown the device and its accompanying video to several individuals in the industry.
“I’ve shown it to the Bossier School Board Transportation Committee and to the superintendent and the assistant superintendent of the district,” he said. He also said that several manufacturers were looking at his invention.
Bennett ultimately plans to approach legislators and officials from other districts in the hope to secure funds to have the flag installed on more buses.