WATERBORO, Maine — A school district here has added extended stop arms to a handful of its buses that run on routes with heavy commuter traffic and where bus drivers previously experienced several illegal passing incidents.
Regional School Unit 57 (RSU 57) added the longer stop arms, which attach to the regular stop arm and stick out 6 feet with the inclusion of the regular stop arm, to nine of its buses, Matt Kearns, the director of transportation for the district, told School Bus Fleet.
The district piloted one extended stop arm from May to June in 2018 on a bus route with multiple illegal passing incidents. After adding it, Kearns said, violations on that route decreased down to almost none.
“That is when we decided to invest in the stop arms on multiple buses in our district,” he added.
Later that summer, RSU 57 installed four more of the extended stop arms, which are made and sold by Bus Safety Solutions, for the 2018-19 school year. The district recently added three more to its school bus fleet in time for the start of the school year on Sept. 4.
“We are a rural district but have many routes that are heavy with commuter traffic to bigger cities and that's where we are targeting our efforts at this time and seeing improved overall compliance,” Kearns added.
Overall, bus drivers have seen a dramatic decrease in stop-arm running incidents since their buses were equipped with the extra-long stop arms. Similar to the pilot results, most drivers have gone from experiencing several incidents per week to none, Kearns said.
He thinks the addition of the extended stop arms is a “no-brainer investment” for pupil transportation operations due to the potential to further boost safety, he added.
“So many people nowadays are distracted or have tunnel vision, and the biggest excuse we always receive is ‘I didn't see the lights,’ or ‘I didn't see the bus,’” Kearns said. “Now the stop sign is put right out in front of them. I feel it has definitely increased our student safety overall at bus stops.”
RSU 57 has also installed about 20 stop-arm cameras and dashboard cameras in buses to help catch stop-arm violators.
Extended stop arms are in use in other states, including West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas. Additionally, the Indiana attorney general recently released an opinion approving their use.