A national survey that tracks the illegal passing of school buses has found that more than 95,000 motorists ran school bus stop arms in one day.
In the ninth annual survey, conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), over 27% of school bus drivers in 39 states participated, with 130,963 school bus drivers reporting that 95,319 vehicles passed their buses illegally on a single day earlier this year.
Throughout a 180-day school year, these sample results point to more than 17 million violations among America’s motoring public, according to NASDPTS. The number of incidents is likely far greater, since not all school bus drivers participated in the voluntary survey.
Underscoring the significantly higher number of illegal passes this year over last year’s survey’s 83,944 passing incidents was the six-day period in late 2018 when six students were killed, and eight students and two adults were injured by vehicles either violating school bus stop arms or hitting students and adults while they were waiting at a bus stop, Mike LaRocco, president of NASDPTS, pointed out. He added that these fatalities occurred in states across the U.S.: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania.
“Despite the fact that students are much safer being transported to and from school in a school bus, students and adults at the bus stop are still very much at the mercy of inattentive motorists,” LaRocco added. “The sheer volume of these illegal passing incidents in a day, let alone an entire school year, is tragic and sobering, particularly when you consider that these injuries and deaths are easily preventable.”
LaRocco also said that the pupil transportation industry needs to “get motorists to understand that although their vehicles may be necessary in the function of their daily lives, they are also two-ton weapons in the hands of drivers who are not paying attention to the world around them as they drive our nation’s roads.”
The survey results for each year since it was started in 2011 have been consistent. In addition to the previously mentioned 2018 total coming in at over 80,000 passing incidents, the number of violations counted on the day the survey was conducted in 2017 totaled nearly 78,000. The 2016 survey found slightly fewer violations, at over 74,000.
The survey results, NASDPTS noted, have brought attention among state and federal lawmakers for the need for greater safety countermeasures. Several states have recently increased penalties for stop-arm violations (such as Idaho and West Virginia, Maryland, Maine, and Indiana), authorized the use of photo evidence for issuing citations (including New York, Indiana, and Oklahoma), or enacted measures designed to deter illegal school bus passing.
Additionally, NASDPTS joined the National School Transportation Association and the National Association for Pupil Transportation in expressing support for the Stop for School Buses Act of 2019 (H.R.2218/S.1254), introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), and in the Senate by Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). This bipartisan legislation calls upon the U.S. Department of Transportation to undertake a comprehensive review of all issues involved with illegal passing of school buses and make recommendations to Congress on best practices to address this national safety problem.
As the new school year ramps up throughout the U.S., NASDPTS encourages state directors, school districts, law enforcement agencies, legislators, and motorists to redouble their efforts to reduce the ongoing threat to the safety of students posed by distracted driving and illegal passing of school buses.
Detailed results from the 2019 survey and past years are available at www.nasdpts.org/stoparm.