Ahead of a California requirement for the coming school year that all school buses must be equipped with approved child safety alert systems that prompt drivers to check for students at the end of routes, Zonar Systems and Child Check-Mate System finalized an agreement to bring solutions to market.
Zonar is now an authorized dealer of Child Check-Mate and is also integrating the solution into its fleet management suite. Zonar will also offer customers an option of integrating Child Check-Mate into ZAlerts and Electronic Verified Inspection Reporting (EVIR) software.
"More than 20 million students ride school buses each year and our goal is to make sure no child gets left behind on a vehicle,” said Brad Both, CEO of Child Check-Mate. “When paired together, our solutions are not only easy to implement and use, but help school drivers and fleet managers prevent these types of incidents, and even increase their standards of safety and general practices."
Child safety alert systems approved by the California Highway Patrol include an audible alarm and/or emitring flashing lights that indicate a driver is conducting a post-trip vehicle inspection for sleeping students or those who otherwise failed to get off the bus at their stop. Zonar explained that the integration of Child Check-Mate with ZAlerts sends a digital notification to dispatch when the alarm goes off and identifies the exact bus and location, either at the transportation facility, a satellite terminal or parked at a driver’s house.
Zonar added that the digital recording of incidents can also be used by fleet managers to track how often incidents occur, and to identify trends and coach drivers towards better safety practices.
“We want to make sure bus drivers and school officials have an easy way to help ensure that no student is ever left on the bus—after all, their top concern is to keep the children in their care safe,” said H. Kevin Mest, senior VP of passenger services for Zonar. “In addition to selling the Child Check-Mate System on its own, using the technology with Zonar’s ZAlerts builds on the intent of the law by sending real-time alerts to management when child checks fail to happen, creating another way to help make sure your kid gets home safe.”
As detailed in a March article in School Transportation News magazine, school districts and vendors have encountered challenges in securing and installing products that are compliant with the Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law that was signed into law in 2016 in response to the death a year earlier of a 19-year-old, nonverbal, 300-pound student with autism in Whittier, California.
Hun Joon “Paul” Lee died after being left alone on the school bus by driver Armando Ramirez for eight hours during a heatwave. Investigators discovered Ramirez skipped the post-trip check for students to meet a fellow driver who was married, for sex.
Lee’s reached a $23.5 million settlement last year with the local government agency that provided the school bus service. The school bus driver pleaded guilty to felony dependent abuse resulting in death. He is currently serving a two-year prison sentence.
Former state Sen. Tony Mendoza, who introduced the legislation, sought to delay the law’s implementation by a year. But those efforts soon collapsed after he resigned in late February, and days after the March edition of STN went to press, amid sexual misconduct allegations.