School Bus Lights Flashing, Stop Sign Deployed Means “STOP”
Have you stopped behind a school bus that is picking up or discharging a school child and a car roars past, as if the red flashing lights and prominent stop sign are not there? I have seen this happen. You probably have seen it too. So how often do Kansas drivers ignore the law and our school childrens’ safety?
A draft copy of the “Kansas 30 Day School Bus Passing Survey” was presented to the Kansas State Board of Education this last week. The KSDE School Bus Safety Unit, at the request of the Kansas Highway Patrol, coordinated a survey by many Kansas school bus drivers who recorded each instance of drivers who ignored the stop signs and flashing lights and passed the stopped school bus.
While students are “incredibly safe” while riding a school bus, they are most at danger when they are outside the bus and crossing the road: the real “danger zone” for our children.
The KSDE requested schools have their bus drivers conduct a one day survey on Wednesday April 19, 2017, observing and reporting “...all instances of motorists illegally passing their school buses.” 188 USDs participated in the one-day survey and reported a total of 691 violations.
Only 57 of the 286 school districts in Kansas volunteered to conduct the 30-day survey, collecting data from January 23 to March 2, 2017. Over this time, 9,967 violations were reported by the bus drivers! Extrapolated to nine months, that would be nearly 90,000 violations a year and does not even include the other 229 USDs. Some urban districts had alarmingly high violations.
There were consistently more violations on highways than on county roads. Overall, danger was greatest on Wednesdays and Thursdays, slightly safer on Fridays. More violations occurred in the afternoon drop-off times than in the morning pick-up of students.
The 30-day survey report is broken down into seven regions across Kansas, corresponding to the Kansas Highway Patrol regions. This report will also be of great interest to city police and county sheriffs.
Bus drivers also tallied the direction of the violating vehicles. Over three-fourths were oncoming drivers approaching from the front. Almost unbelievably, 222 cars in the survey passed the school buses on the right side, the side where students step off of the bus. Sometimes these cars even drove with a tire in the ditch to illegally get around the bus!
This Kansas survey assists the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services that is coordinating similar surveys nationwide. The Kansas survey is careful to point out that there are many uncontrolled variables that keep the survey from being a scientifically accurate document.
Nationwide there is similar concern and similar data where surveyed...not just a KS problem. The KSDE maintains additional bus passing data, including state-by-state comparisons and long-term data, on its website at ksde.org.
All members of the State Board of Education expressed alarm at the 2017 data. Increased enforcement faces many challenges. Most people do not realize the number of school buses required to transport Kansas children to school each day, and the burden this would pose for police escort.
Merely having the bus driver report the license plate number poses a problem—the driver may not be the registered car owner. This also poses a problem for cameras mounted on the stop signal arm. Therefore, future legislation may be required to hold car-owners responsible.
But for the driving public, there are no excuses.
If a handicapped student takes a longer time to cross the road, it may frustrate us drivers. No excuse.
If we fail to plan and will likely be late to work. No excuse.
If the road has a meridian and we can’t remember whether we have to stop for that bus...”way over there”—go back and read the driver’s license manual. No excuse.
Nearly 10,000 bus passing violations a month in Kansas! There are simply no excuses for that.