A national survey on the illegal passing of school buses has found that more than 80,000 motorists ran school bus stop arms in one day.
In the eighth annual survey, conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), over 20% of school bus drivers in 38 states, plus the District of Columbia, participated, with 108,623 school bus drivers reporting that 83,944 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 15 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.
“We know that students are far safer in school buses, but cars passing school buses is one of the most troubling problems we face, because it is so common and can lead to injury or death,” said Diana Hollander, president of NASDPTS. “This survey provides a shocking snapshot of the violations that bus drivers and traffic officers know all too well are occurring each and every day throughout the United States.”
Hollander also said that the goal of the survey is to educate motorists about the “potentially tragic consequences of violating school bus stopping laws.”
“Any driver who passes a stopped school bus while students are getting on or off is gambling with children’s lives,” Hollander said. “Violating your state’s law can result in significant fines or even more serious penalties."
The survey results for each year since it was started in 2011 have been consistent. In 2017, the number of violations counted on the day the survey was conducted totaled nearly 78,000, and the 2016 survey found slightly fewer violations, at over 74,000.
The numbers, NASDPTS noted, have brought attention among state and federal policymakers to the need for greater safety countermeasures. In recent years, several states have increased penalties for violations, authorized the use of photo evidence for issuing citations, or enacted other measures designed to deter stop-arm running.
Reducing illegal passing requires a comprehensive approach, involving education of students, motorists, and school bus drivers; frequent, visible enforcement; and advances in school bus equipment and other technologies, according to NASDPTS.
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 2018 survey and past years are available at www.nasdpts.org/stoparm.