MCKINNEY, Texas — A local school district is taking aim at illegal school bus passing by testing a device that lengthens the reach of the stop arm into the next lane of traffic.
The stop-arm extension, dubbed Bus Crossing Guard and offered by Bus Safety Solutions LLC, has been tested in North Carolina and West Virginia. McKinney Independent School District (ISD) is believed to be the first district in Texas to try out the device.
The stop-arm extension, which costs about $1,000 each, has been installed on 10 buses that transport McKinney ISD students. Those buses cover routes with heavy traffic — and the most cases of stop-arm running. District officials said that they will consider adding more of the devices if they prove effective.
Last year, a one-day count of stop-arm running in Texas tallied 7,676 violations. At McKinney ISD, officials said that illegal passes occur at a rate of about 20 times per day, or about 3,500 per school year.
Bus Crossing Guard is a mechanical arm with an extra stop sign that extends about 6 feet from the side of the bus when it stops to load or unload students. The goal is to help get drivers’ attention and to impose a physical barrier to deter them from passing the bus.
McKinney ISD contracts with Durham School Services to transport the district’s students. Pete Chancellor, a general manager for Durham, said that he has already seen some improvement in the illegal passing problem since implementing the Bus Crossing Guard devices.
“I think it’s good,” Chancellor said in a district press release. “I think it increases awareness for the motorists. Again, we’d love to stop it completely. But, with the feedback we’ve gotten from the drivers, a lot of them see a big difference because the extended arm is so visible. So, we’ll continue to increase awareness and get feedback to see how it goes.”
Durham driver Bruce Austin said that the extended stop arms pose some challenges on McKinney’s narrower streets, but he said that violations have decreased since the device was installed on his bus last month.
“Now, I’m not seeing any cars trying to just literally go by me because they are afraid they might extend out into traffic or run into the arm,” Austin said. “So, I think it’s just a great idea. I’ve seen that it’s working.”
Sandra Ellis, a 20-year veteran driver, said that the stop-arm extension deters some motorists, although others have driven around it.
“It’s helping some because they see it sticking out there,” Ellis said. “You still have some of them that will run it. Some of them will go into the turn lane, in the median to pass it. I even had a big truck go around it, but it’s helping some.”