While the "fiscal cliff" was somewhat averted at the 11th and a half hour earlier this month, yet with the threat of sequestration still looming, a resolution passed by the House last year that would have ostensibly benefitted student transportation fell victim to the crippling business (or is it inaction?) of Washington.
Last year, Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa introduced a version of that state's "Kadyn's Law" in the House that would have appropriated $10 million in NHTSA funding for nationwide enforcement of school bus illegal passing laws. But it seems the nation's politics, and budget haggling, claimed the life of this House amendment. Kadyn's Amendment passed in the House's approval of the transportation-HUD appropriations bill but never saw action in the Senate.The resulting continuing appropriations resolution to keep government operations, including transportation, fully funded for fiscal year 2013 did not include Kadyn's Amendment.
So it's "back to the drawing board," an aide to Rep. Braley told us, adding that the congressman remains committed to the legislation and hopes to re-introduce it this year.
The federal bill, like the Iowa law before it, was named after the 7-year-old Kadyn Halverson, who was killed in May 2011 by motorist Aaron Gunderson. Halverson was crossing the street from her babysitter's house to her school bus when she was hit and dragged 200 feet before Aaron Gunderson fled the scene, only to be later arrested, tried and found guilty of vehicular homicide-reckless driving and eaving the scene of a personal injury accident. Last January, Gunderson was sentenced to 15 years in prison and was ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution.
Remaining on the federal legislative front, Rep. Reid Wibble of Wisconsin, a member of the House Transportation Committee, introduced a bill last month that would have authorized a pilot program that requires hair samples when testing commercial drivers for controlled substances. H.R. 6641, however, died in Wibble's transportation committee.
Police in Swissvale, Pa., were searching for dozens of students and adults who were depicted in a cell-phone video fighting at school bus stops in recent days. Police called the fights "riots."
Several students and parents, reportedly from the Woodland Hills School District east of Pittsburgh, had already been arrested at this report. Police said they would arrest all identified in the video, perhaps as many as 30 to 40, and the school district said they will discipline and expel all involved. In a statment on its website, the district said it was "appalled."
"Maintaining a safe and secure environment for our students is the first priority of this school district," the statement continued. "Any student found to have been involved in this will be prosecuted to the fullest extent that our Student Code of Conduct, Board policies and the Pennsylvania State School Code allow. We believe in supporting students first, last and always. But we also believe that a key component of that support is holding students accountable for their decisions and actions. And finally, we hope that everyone bears in mind that this was a small number of students out of the 4,000 plus young men and women who attend our schools."
Meanwhile, residents are reportedly scared for their lives as they fear retribution for speaking out. One woman interviewed by local CBS affiiate KDKA said she saw one man being repeatedly kicked in the head.
Police remained on patrol as rumors of additional fights, even a murder, were being circulated.
Opponents of school bus advertisements could potentially use information from a study out of Sweden published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention that concludes that digital billboards attract and hold the gazes of drivers for far longer than a threshold that previous studies have shown to be dangerous.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute and funded by the Swedish Transport Administration, found that drivers looked at digital billboards significantly longer than they did at other signs on the same stretch of road, with the digital signs often taking a driver's eyes off the road for more than two seconds. The study's authors wrote that it's not surprising that digital billboards attract greater attention from drivers: the signs are brighter, visible from greater distances, and display a constantly-changing series of advertisements.
While we have yet to hear of any school bus ads that are in digital format, a 2006 study by Virginia Tech for NHTSA found that anything that takes a driver's eyes off the road for more than two seconds greatly increases the risk of a crash. The study also found that nearly 80 percent of all crashes involved driver inattention just prior to (within 3 seconds) of the crash.
The study, as well as two other recently completed studies of digital billboards, will be presented during the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 16.
Finally, we’d like to recognize one West Virginia school bus driver who was deemed a hero this week after he found a 3-year-old boy who had disappeared from his home.
Harrison County driver Randy Harper didn’t find the boy, Harry Martin, and his two dogs while driving the bus. He heard about him missing for more than three hours from a friend and decided to help. So he drove into the woods on his ATV, which he then shut off and began shouting for boy and the two dogs. He was eventually led to Martin thanks to the bark of one of the dogs, Chewy, which Harper deemed to be the true hero because of its barking. Harper found the boy sitting on a brush pile on a ridge. After reassuring the boy everything would be OK and that he would return home to his parents, Harper was very happy to have the boy home with his family.
“These kids really tug at your heart strings regardless of who they are,” Harper told the local news station. “No matter what, we’re all family around there. When you get something that hits home like this because you read it in the news and the papers all the time, something’s got to be done and its got to be done now.”