TOPEKA, Kan. — A lengthy survey of illegal school bus passing in Kansas counted nearly 10,000 stop-arm violations in 30 school days.
The 30-Day School Bus Passing Survey took place across the state from Jan. 23 to March 3. The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) and the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) released the results on Wednesday.
Of the 286 school districts in Kansas, 57 (20%) volunteered to take part in the project. In all, they reported 9,967 school bus stop-arm violations over the 30 school days.
Out of the total 9,967 violations, 9,745 (98%) occurred on the left side of the bus, and 222 (2%) were on the right side, where students board and exit.
Nearly three-fourths of the violating vehicles — 7,249 (73%) — passed from the front of the bus, while 2,718 (27%) passed from the rear.
More than two-thirds of the violations — 6,888 (69%) — were reported in the state’s largest school system, Wichita Unified School District.
While many states conduct one-day stop-violation counts annually or monthly, a 30-day study is much longer than usual. The concept came about earlier this year after KSDE discussed traffic safety issues around school buses with KHP, which requested more extensive data.
In releasing a report on the 30-day survey, KSDE acknowledged its limitations. For example, the districts weren’t randomly selected, and some didn’t participate in the entire study. Even so, KSDE and KHP officials said in a press release that the data point to a significant safety concern.
“It only takes a second for tragedy to occur,” said Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas commissioner of education. “The results of this survey are an important reminder that we all need to slow down, put down the cell phones, and pay attention. Nothing is more important than protecting the lives of our children.”
KHP Superintendent Col. Mark Bruce said that his agency will use the survey data in school bus stop education and enforcement efforts.
“The results of the survey clearly identified a significant threat to the safety of children who are bused to school,” Bruce said. “The patrol will be working with the Kansas law enforcement community to implement enforcement and educational strategies to reduce the incidence of motorists illegally passing school buses that are in the process of loading or unloading children.”
The 30-day survey was separate from a one-day survey that Kansas conducted on April 19 as part of the nationwide effort coordinated by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. Kansas’ one-day survey counted 691 stop-arm violations, with 2,527 school bus drivers across the state participating.
KSDE is no stranger to school bus safety research projects. The agency also conducts an annual national survey of school bus loading and unloading fatalities.