Tens of thousands of motorists continue to illegally pass school buses daily nationwide, according to a survey that is spearheaded by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS).
More than 96,000 school bus drivers in 33 states throughout the U.S., which is almost 20% of the nation’s school bus drivers, according to NASDPTS, participated in a one-day survey to report the number of times motorists passed their stopped buses illegally. On that day, participating drivers reported a total of 74,421 vehicles had passed their buses illegally. NASDPTS officials said that this sample reflects more than 13 million violations in a 180-day school year.
Participation among states was notably higher in this survey compared with last year’s survey, in which 26 states took part in the one-day count. Nearly 80,000 vehicles were found to have illegally passed school buses in that survey.
This is the sixth edition of the survey, which was launched by NASDPTS in 2011.
“We know that students are far safer in school buses, but when they are outside the bus, they are more vulnerable to injury or death,” NASDPTS President Leon Langley said. “This survey captured only a fraction of the violations that bus drivers and traffic officers know all too well are occurring each and every day throughout the United States. It verifies that, unfortunately, motorists continue to pass school buses at an alarming rate.”
Here are some key details on the 2016 survey results:
• Of the total 74,421 stop-arm violations counted, 98.3% were on the left side of the bus (the driver’s side), and the other 1.7% were on the right side.
• Approximately two-thirds of motorists passed buses from the front (59.1%) as opposed to the rear of the bus.
• Slightly more than 46% of the violations occurred in the morning, 4% happened mid-day, and nearly half (49.9%) occurred in the evening.
Results have been consistent since NASDPTS first coordinated the annual survey in 2011. In the 2011 survey results, 76,685 illegal passes were documented during the one-day survey. In 2012, 88,025 illegal passes were reported. There were 85,279 in 2013, 75,966 in 2014, and 78,518 in 2015.
Several states and cities have taken action to cut down on stop-arm running, such as passing laws to allow stop-arm cameras on school buses, and toughening penalties and increasing fines.
In 2016 so far, Alabama passed a law that allows school systems to place stop-arm cameras on school buses and fines to be charged for violations, as did the cities of San Antonio, Texas, and Mercer Island, Washington. Meanwhile, Virginia passed a law that allows tickets to be mailed to the owner of the vehicle involved in the violation (although a school district has delayed installing stop-arm cameras on its buses due to a legal loophole), and a similar bill has advanced in the South Carolina Legislature.
Detailed results from the 2016 survey and from previous years’ surveys can be found at www.nasdpts.org/stoparm.