Three Indiana school districts are piloting illuminated school bus signs from First Light Safety Products. Shown here is the company's Illuminated School Bus Sign and Fully Illuminated Stop Arm. - Photo courtesy First Light Safety Products

Three Indiana school districts are piloting illuminated school bus signs from First Light Safety Products. Shown here is the company's Illuminated School Bus Sign and Fully Illuminated Stop Arm.

Photo courtesy First Light Safety Products

Three school districts in Indiana are adding illuminated school bus signs to some of their buses as part of a pilot designed to further enhance school bus visibility and mitigate illegal passing.

Rossville Consolidated School District, Hamilton Southeastern Schools, and Wa-Nee Community Schools began conducting the pilot, using Illuminated School Bus Signs from First Light Safety Products, in September.

The pilot program was approved on March 3 by the Indiana Department of Education (DOE) State School Bus committee, Mike LaRocco, the Indiana DOE’s director of school transportation told School Bus Fleet.

The signs can be seen from over 1,000 feet away, are visible from 180 degrees, and are readable from over 300 feet away, Cam Quan, the director of sales, marketing, and customer relations for First Light Safety Products, confirmed to SBF.

As the first step of the process, Rossville Consolidated is outfitting one bus with the illuminated sign above the windshield and the rear windows, according to a news release from the district. The Type C bus involved in the pilot is operational daily, and a second bus, a Type D, will be equipped with the illuminated signs in the first quarter of 2021, Dr. Jim Hanna, the superintendent of the district, told SBF.

“It is unfathomable that drivers still say that they didn’t see the bus,” Hanna said in the news release. “However, it is the district’s hope that coupled with the red strobing lights, wig-wag [alternately flashing] headlights, miles of reflective tape, and now illuminated signage, more people will stop for school buses and let children load and unload safely.”

In addition to testing the illuminated signs, Rossville Consolidated has also worked to make the public aware of the illegal school bus passing issue by sharing information in newsletters and has added stop-arm cameras on all school buses in an effort to reduce the number of vehicles passing school buses through enforcement.

Rossville Consolidated will conduct its pilot testing through the remainder of the school year, which is currently scheduled to end in May 2021, Hanna told SBF.

Meanwhile, Hamilton Southeastern Schools also added the illuminated signs to two of its school buses and will run them through the planned end of the school year in May, Zach McKinney, the director of transportation for the district, told SBF. One bus runs within the city limits and the other operates in a rural part of the district with stops along a state highway.

“We are always looking for ways to improve the safety of pupil transportation for our school community,” McKinney added. “We have introduced stop-arm cameras into our fleet, but unfortunately that system is to catch stop-arm violators after the act. I am excited about the illuminated signs and stop arms because it will draw more attention to the school bus as it is making its stops along the rout

All three school districts will also pilot First Light’s Fully Illuminated Stop Arm, which is set to be available in the marketplace in the first quarter of 2021. Hamilton Southeastern will run its pilot with the illuminated stop arms on two of its buses.

Over the last couple years, as SBF previously reported, Indiana has cracked down on stop-arm running in response to a tragic crash that killed three students who were siblings and injured one other as they were trying to board their school bus on Oct. 30, 2018. Those efforts have included a law signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in May 2019 that increased penalties for violating a stop arm from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor, and an opinion from the state’s attorney general that the board that establishes school bus safety standards can allow the use of extended stop arms in the state.

More recently, the state has increased its law enforcement presence around school buses, with over 200 Indiana law enforcement agencies conducting extra patrols to safeguard students as they get on and off the school bus.

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