SHOKAN, N.Y. — As a school bus driver, Gloria Buley was well aware of the danger zone around her vehicle and its potential for tragedy.
In a training session on the topic of school bus loading and unloading fatalities, an instructor told of an incident in which a child placed a milk carton underneath a bus to see it explode. With her own son being in first grade at the time, the message hit home for Buley.
"I knew my son was capable of doing something like that. It would crush my world to be without that kid," Buley recalled in an interview with SBF. "I said, 'There’s got to be a way I can view that zone as a driver and save the life of a child."
What she came up with is a device that serves dual purposes. On one side, it's an additional mirror that provides an enhanced view of the danger zone. On the back side of the mirror is a stop arm, deterring motorists from passing the bus on the right, where the device is mounted.
The unit, called the Woodstock Safety Mirror, works in conjunction with a school bus' current red warning lights and stop arm. When the bus door opens, the mirror device folds out. The driver sees it via the regular side mirror.
Buley said that the Woodstock Safety Mirror allows the driver to see a 15-foot area on the side of the bus.
The unit mounts on the bars in between windows near the back of the bus. It has a quick-release system so it can be popped off in an emergency.
Buley said that the Woodstock Safety Mirror has undergone extensive testing and development since she began working on it in 1999, the year she became a school bus driver. (She is still a New York state-certified 19-A examiner and driver trainer.)
Buley said that she first had to get approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the device. Then she obtained New York state approvals, and a pilot study was conducted.
The unit was used on 20 school buses in 10 school districts across the state, on city and rural roads and in various weather conditions.
"We took the drivers' reports and changed it to the unit we have now," Buley said. Among the modifications were making the unit and its motor smaller. It now weighs a total of 36 pounds.
Buley demonstrated an older version of the device at the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s 2003 trade show, where she said she got many favorable responses.
The Woodstock Safety Mirror is slated to be launched for sale on April 15. The initial price is $995, but Buley notes that “the more we make, the more it will come down.”
For more information, go to www.woodstocksafetymirror.com.