LANSDALE, Pa. — A national school transportation association is calling for the passage of federal school bus safety legislation in response to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB’s) release on Tuesday of its findings on the fatal 2018 crash in Indiana.
The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) has reviewed the abstract of the report that the NTSB submitted of its completed investigation of the Oct. 30, 2018, Rochester, Ind., crash that killed three students and injured another when motorist Alyssa Shepherd ran a school bus stop arm. As School Bus Fleet previously reported, the NTSB determined that the crash was caused by Shepherd’s failure to stop her truck despite the bus’s activated and clearly visible warning lights and stop arm, as well as a roadway warning sign for an upcoming school bus stop.
Contributing to the cause of the crash was the Tippecanoe Valley School Corp.’s inadequate safety assessment of school bus routes, resulting in the prevalence of bus stops that required students to cross high-speed roadways to board a bus, according to the report. Additionally, there was no clear policy established by the school corporation for school bus drivers to follow in determining when it was safe to signal students to cross a roadway to board a school bus, the NTSB’s report stated.
The NTSB’s recommendations include addressing deficiencies in establishing safe school bus routes, failure of other drivers to stop or respond safely when approaching a stopped school bus, and a need for greater use of technologies to prevent collisions and mitigate injuries.
The NSTA stated in a news release that it “applauds the pursuit to identify measures that can be immediately taken to eliminate future occurrences of illegal passing collisions.”
The crash, the NSTA added, was the impetus for it to pursue introduction of the STOP for School Buses Act of 2019 (STOP Act) (S. 1254/H.R. 2218).
As SBF previously reported, U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) introduced the STOP Act in April 2019. The bill aims to improve efforts to prevent illegal passing by directing the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to conduct a comprehensive review of existing laws and programs in all 50 states, recommend best practices, and create a nationwide public safety campaign.
“The unfortunate Rochester fatal accident, as outlined in these NTSB investigative findings, strengthen the resolve of NSTA to eliminate illegal passings of stopped school buses that have the net effect of placing school children in harm’s way,” said Curt Macysyn, the NSTA’s executive director. “The message should be sent loud and clear to motorists that these incidents are preventable, and distracted driving is not acceptable under any circumstances, let alone around a school bus.”
Macysyn added that the crash “was a tragedy that the school transportation industry wishes to never see repeated.”
The NSTA also pointed to the rising instances of illegal passing as cause for concern and a need for the federal legislation. It cited the 2019 National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services voluntary stop-arm survey that showed more than 95,000 illegal passings in 39 states that conducted the survey over the course of a single day.