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June 16, 2014  |   Comments (12)   |   Post a comment

Stop-arm incident photo is worth 1,000 words

by Thomas McMahon - Also by this author

This photo shows the aftermath of a South Carolina incident in which a teenage girl was struck by a vehicle passing her bus. The girl's shoes lie in the road; her backpack is on top of the bus.

This photo shows the aftermath of a South Carolina incident in which a teenage girl was struck by a vehicle passing her bus. The girl's shoes lie in the road; her backpack is on top of the bus.

Just like the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes a photograph can give a shot in the arm to a safety initiative that a lot of talking can't quite muster.

As we reported last week, South Carolina passed legislation that authorizes the use of stop-arm cameras on school buses to capture footage of vehicles passing illegally.

One interesting detail in the journey of the stop-arm camera measure through the legislative process is the role that a photo played. Bill sponsor Sen. Thomas Alexander showed the shocking picture to other legislators to help galvanize support for the bill.

The photo, provided to SBF by a spokesperson for Alexander and included above, shows the aftermath of a stop-arm running incident in Cherokee County, S.C., in May. A motorist passing a stopped school bus struck and seriously injured a teenage student.

In the photo, the force of the vehicle striking the teenage girl is powerfully depicted by the position of two items: the girl's shoes and backpack.

Her shoes, which she was apparently knocked out of, were left lying in the road. Her backpack, incredibly, was thrown all the way onto the roof of the bus.

For those who aren't already convinced that stop-arm running is a dangerous problem, this photo should quickly change their minds.

— Thomas McMahon, executive editor

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Read more about: danger zone, South Carolina, stop arm running/illegal passing

Great photo, and my kudos for continuing to support this important campaign. I'm happy to see it spreading from city to city and state to state. However, once again, I hope you continue to remind school transportation directors and drivers to not RELY on these cameras to deter motorists from pass-bys. This will take years. And during the long transition period, if we RELY on these cameras to deter pass-bys, we will experience a heightened degree of carnage. As an expert witness, I've worked on more than 60 crossing cases, and unfortunately, most of them have not been totally the motorists' fault -- and many have been not at all the motorists' fault. So we must still exercise the same precaution we were taught to as if the cameras were not installed -- and we will need to do this forever, because no volume of cameras will completely stop every motorist from pass-bys, just like the Brave New World of Camden, NJ, overflowing with cameras and practically "militarized," has had only a moderate impact on crime reduction as a result of all these things. So please keep your expectations reasonable, and remain vigilant.

Ned Einstein    |    Jun 16, 2014 04:29 PM

Judging from the picture it appears the offending vehicle was approaching the school bus from the front in full view of the bus driver. I am a firm believer that a school bus driver tells the student when to cross the road by either a large hand motion across the windshield or verbally on a exterior P/A or a combination of both. A long warning blast on the school bus horn can also be used if the students are properly trained to heed that warning. This picture leaves many unanswered questions and a stop arm camera would not have prevented the tragedy. In the incident two weeks ago in Minnesota a semi-tractor trailer traveling at highway speeds passed a stopped school bus on the right side and passed between the open bus door, a mailbox, and the student on the end of the driveway and continued down the highway. Three days later many TV stations showed the video and ran the complete story with a Minnesota State Trooper asking for anyone able to identify the semi-tractor/trailer. A few hours later the driver of the truck called the State Patrol and identified himself. Without the camera system, the truck driver may not have come forward.

Dwight -- DSBSI Ltd.    |    Jun 17, 2014 02:28 AM

OMG....just this morning coming in to work in New Jersey I watched 3 cars drive around the school bus with his red's picking up students!!!! Makes me sick! I drove a school bus for almost 20 years and as a driver there is only so much you can do! Blow your horn as mentioned above if your kids have been taught the purpose of this.....I used to stop my bus in a way I was told I should not....on an angle so the car if passing has to actually swerve around my bus....its sad! Yes also as the driver I told my kids when they can step out when I was sure the traffic was stopped. But when there are no cars there.....:(

Marie    |    Jun 17, 2014 04:41 AM

Is there supposed to be a crossing arm on that bus? Can I just not see it in this picture (wire type)?

Jay    |    Jun 17, 2014 05:18 AM

Is there funding available to equip buses with the new camera. I am resposible for transportation at a Head Start program in SC. We provide transportation with school buses with stop arms, and have had vehicles pass our buses while the stop arm was out.

Jerome    |    Jun 17, 2014 06:00 AM

Im an Officer for the California Highway Patrol and I oversee the school bus / student transportatioin industry In Sonoma CO, California. First our thoughts go out to the student and family after such a serious incident. Here in California it is mandated that the school bus driver exit the bus and cross students with a hand held stop sign in congjunction with the red lights and stop arm. I'm curious what South Carolina's crossing procedures are. Although having the driver out directing traffic during the crossing helps in curbing illegal passing, but amazingly it still does happens.

Steven Fricke    |    Jun 17, 2014 06:39 AM

Jay, I don't see a stop arm on that bus but then again I don't believe its a law in every state yet. To install camera's and monitoring equipment is very costly for a school district depending on the size of their fleet. Something that should be done as a mandatory. Some buses have those cameras but I believe the local police department will not ticket the drivers that go through their lights so what is the purpose of spending the money if nothing gets accomplished! Also, Steven, In all the districts I have worked in there is NOT a crossing guard to cross the children getting off the bus.....and if drivers leave their bus to cross, who is left on the buses with those children! It doesn't seem like a good solution. I also was a crossing guard....wearing a giant orange coat, with a big red STOP sign and I cannot tell you how many times I almost got hit standing in the road! What do you do? Something must be done in conjunction with all states to protect our school bus riders/drivers/monitors.

Marie    |    Jun 17, 2014 07:31 AM

In California, it has been law for more than 50 years for school bus drivers to escort elementary students across the roadway. In the past 30 years it became mandatory for the bus driver to use a hand held stop sign to perform the escort. I have been in school bus service for over 40 years, 32 of those years as a driving instructor. In all those years I cannot recall any incident occurring inside the bus related to the driver being out of the bus doing an escort. This process by far has proven to be the best method to protect the student. I know that most other states would balk at this procedure because they have never utilized it but if your intention is to provide the highest degree of safety to students, this is definitely something that you should be looking at.

Jerry Rank    |    Jun 17, 2014 08:43 AM

That's great that it works in CA! Im sure if its put into action it would work here too.....

Marie    |    Jun 17, 2014 12:06 PM

yes there is a crossarm on the bus , the old wire figure 8 style, if you look hard you can see it

mik    |    Jun 17, 2014 02:38 PM

There are laws in place but they are no good since there is poor enforcement and therefore are considered a joke by many drivers. Besides more focus on educating drivers, there need to be a tougher enforcement and serious consequences for running the flashing red lights. Also, let the public know by posting a "Hall of Shame" online with mug shots and fines imposed and if they're repeat offenders, have their license suspended. Just my $.02

Knowie Rivers    |    Jun 23, 2014 11:19 AM

Why shouldn't we outfit all school buses with extendable police blue strobe light arms such that the bus driver can block 1 to 3 lanes with flashing steel? It would help protect victims but it would be 1,000 times more effective than a little stop sign and red flashing lights.

Stuart    |    Apr 21, 2015 03:29 PM

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