Nearly 80,000 vehicles illegally passed school buses in a one-day survey conducted in multiple states earlier this year, according to results released on Monday.
This was the fifth edition of the survey, launched by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) in 2011.
In 2015, a total of 102,371 school bus drivers in 26 states participated. That represents about one-fifth (21%) of the nation’s estimated 485,000 school bus drivers.
The one-day tally of stop-arm violations this year was 78,518. NASDPTS officials noted that this figure can be extrapolated to more than 14 million illegal passes of the buses surveyed in a 180-day school year.
The 2015 survey found a violation rate of 0.77 vehicles passing per bus. That rate has been fairly consistent over the past few years: It was 0.78 in 2014 and 0.79 in 2013.
NASDPTS officials said that the most alarming finding of the survey is that 1,483 (about 2%) of the total illegal passes were on the right side of the bus, where students load and unload. Still, the majority of the violations, 75,986 (about 98%), were on the left side of the bus.
As for the direction of the vehicles, more passed from the front of the bus — 45,353 (59%) — than from the rear — 31,835 (41%).
Slightly more violations occurred in the evening — 38,795 (49%) — than in the morning — 36,165 (46%). The other 3,558 (5%) were mid-day.
NASDPTS officials said that the data collected in the national survey helps in raising public awareness about illegal passing of school buses, making policy changes and targeting violators — all with the goal of increasing student safety.
“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. “Any driver who passes a stopped school bus illegally is endangering children and possibly even his or her own future. Trying to save a few seconds by passing a school bus and hitting a child can be devastating not only for the victims and their families, but also for the motorist who will have to live with the sad consequences.”
Many states have taken steps to cut down on stop-arm violations, such as enacting stiffer penalties, launching law enforcement campaigns, and passing legislation to allow stop-arm cameras on school buses.
The danger of illegal passing of school buses is also emphasized by national data compiled annually by the Kansas State Department of Education. The latest version of that report found that six students were killed by vehicles passing their school bus in the 2013-14 school year.
Detailed results from the NASDPTS stop-arm survey for 2015 and previous years can be found at www.nasdpts.org/stoparm.