CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A local school district has added several safety features to many of its buses, some of which it demonstrated as it dispensed safety advice to parents and students on Monday and Tuesday.
Kanawha County Schools held a demonstration on Monday at its St. Albans bus terminal at 5:30 a.m., when it was still dark, to show parents, students, and the public how Gardian Angel, the new safety lighting system it is using, illuminates the path students take to the bus in the dark.
“We showed how bright the lights would be, what students would encounter with the Gardian Angel lights, and the extended stop arm and new LED lights,” Brette Fraley, executive director of the district’s transportation department, told SBF. “We are giving awareness that with school about to start, these are the different features you are going to see on the bus.”
Fifty of the buses are now equipped with Gardian Angel lights, Fraley said, and because the district’s superintendent and drivers like the technology, another 50 buses will be outfitted with the lighting system this fall.
The transportation department is using Gardian Angel’s dual-head light versus its single-head light, after receiving approval for it from the state. The dual-head light was chosen because drivers who participated in the transportation department’s pilot with the single-head light said that students were boarding from both sides of the bus, so illumination was needed on both sides.
The Gardian Angel safety lighting system was approved for use on school buses in West Virginia last year. The system was installed on 10 buses in Kanawha County last year, WVAH reports.
The Tuesday demonstration, held at the district’s Elkview bus terminal, covered other new safety features on the buses as well as safety advice, as the transportation department has done every year before school starts.
In addition to the buses equipped with Gardian Angel lights, 10 buses have new extended stop arms, and additional LED lights, electronic stability control, and GPS tracking to provide parents with more accurate pickup and drop-off information, according to the district.
The transportation department will also install fire suppression systems on all of its buses this year, Fraley said.
The department switched from using a 6-foot extended stop arm to using one that is a bit shorter, at 4 feet long.
“It looked stronger, more durable, so we tried 10 of those, two of them in each of our facilities,” Fraley said.
Kanawha County Schools has seen a significant decrease in illegal passing after equipping buses with extended stop arms. In 2014, one year before an extended stop-arm pilot was conducted, there were 93 illegal passes. Last year, there were 13, Fraley noted.
“It’s showing improvement, but that’s 13 too many,” he added.
Fraley said that the drop in these incidents is also due to media coverage and an overall community effort.
“There has been public awareness of illegal passing because we have used the news media. The media will cover it for us, and we get the word out for no cost,” Fraley said.
Additionally, members of the community have provided feedback on route changes, many of which the department ended up making.
The district's new buses will also feature an AngelTrax 12-camera system, a change from their eight-camera system. Both systems cover the interior and exterior of the bus, but the new one also includes a camera on the right side of the bus. Fraley said he hopes the switch will help cut down on right-side passes.
“Statistically, the right side of the bus is being passed more and more,” he added.
The Tuesday demonstration also covered rules that motorists must follow for stopping for school buses, according to WOWK TV. Drivers reminded students to be at the bus stop on time and to avoid wearing earbuds when getting on and off the bus to ensure they are aware of their surroundings. Additionally, parents were advised to supervise their children at bus stops whenever possible.