Hopefully, a new year brings new beginnings, and many more safe trips to and from school via the yellow bus.
Speaking of safety, the Kansas City, Missouri, conferences, held by the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, held late last year, featured an impressive variety of safety-related topics that dominated discussions, ranging from fire evacuation training to lessons learned from fatal school bus crashes.
One particularly eye-opening topic was the findings outlined by an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board on the 2016 Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Baltimore, Maryland, crashes that each killed six people, and the recommendations for electronic stability control and collision mitigation technology. Thankfully, school bus manufacturers such as IC Bus and Thomas Built Buses, which displayed vehicles on the trade show floor, made that technology standard in 2018.
It is, of course, essential that the motorists who share the road with bus drivers stop for stopped school buses … However, it is encouraging to see how technology is evolving to help provide an even safer ride for all students.
Another unfortunate talked-about topic during the events: the day of the trade show, Oct. 30, a tragic crash occurred in Indiana, killing three students, and seriously injuring another student. A motorist, Alyssa Shepherd, allegedly ran a stop arm and struck the students as they were crossing the street to board their bus. Showgoers, who share a passion for student safety, were of course saddened and concerned over the news. As Thomas Built Buses leader Caley Edgerly told School Bus Fleet in a Q & A in the January issue in response to news of the Indiana crash in October and other student fatalities that have occurred since: “Any news of a tragedy involving a school bus … causes each one of us great pain. Our hearts ache with the rest of the industry, and our minds reel with what-ifs.”
Sadly, later that week a handful of other high-profile accidents followed, including two that were fatal:
- In Mississippi, a 9-year-old boy was hit and killed by a pickup truck while trying to cross a highway to get to his bus.
- A 7-year-old boy was fatally struck by a vehicle at his bus stop in Pennsylvania.
- In Florida, five students and two adults were injured at a bus stop when a motorist struck them, seriously injuring two of the students, ages 6 to 10 years old.
These awful events — and several others since — have reinforced the need for even greater public education and safety in what is already the safest form of transportation available.
New technology can play a role, and several items on display at the NAPT trade show were created to help prevent such incidents. In our Technology Showcase in the January issue, we provide information on a few of the offerings on display. Those include a stop-arm solution that can monitor traffic as it approaches a school bus, and uses radar technology and artificial intelligence to analyze when a stop-arm violation could potentially happen.
It is, of course, essential that the motorists who share the road with bus drivers stop for stopped school buses, which is the law in all 50 states and in Canada (where motorists in one province who do run stop arms now face a temporary loss of their license.) However, it is encouraging to see how technology is evolving to help provide an even safer ride for all students.