INDIANAPOLIS — The state attorney general recently released an opinion stating that the board that establishes school bus safety standards can allow the use of extended stop arms and that liability lies with motorists who pass them.
In the opinion, released on June 27 and obtained by The Times of Northwest Indiana, Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. writes that although state and federal regulations outline specifications for school bus stop arms, they do not place a limit on their length. (Hill defines the length of extended stop arms in the opinion as being “anywhere from 4.5 to 6.5 feet from the bus.”)
Hill also stated in the opinion that because Indiana law prohibits motorists from passing a school bus when its stop arm is extended, any motorist who passes a bus in this case would be liable for any property damage or personal injury that occurred as a result. (The opinion does not hold the same weight as law, but is generally respected by courts, according to the newspaper.)
Hill’s opinion on liability issues around deploying extended stop arms was requested by Michael Mentzel, chairman of the Indiana State School Bus Committee, and Michael LaRocco, the director of transportation at the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana state director for National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.
Extended stop arms, which are “gaining interest in Indiana,” according to Hill’s opinion, are in use in other states, including West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas.
Receiving the state attorney general's opinion is part of the rulemaking process for the Indiana State School Bus Committee, Adam Baker, press secretary for the Indiana Department of Education, told School Bus Fleet.
Baker added that several schools in the state are "interested in knowing more" about adding extended stop arms to their buses, and are waiting for the rulemaking process to conclude. That could take up to a year.
"During that time, we will explore and discuss all avenues from implementation through use," Baker said.
To read the full opinion, go here.