The rate of motorists nationwide that are illegally passing stopped school buses isn’t slowing down despite the continuous increases in technological and community outreach solutions, according to the industry’s association of state administrators.
The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) announced the results on Thursday of its 10th survey on school bus illegal passing. Thirty-four states and 22 percent of the nation’s school bus drivers participated in a voluntary, one-day count in the spring to record motorists who passed their stopped school buses.
As reported in the survey, 79,859 school bus drivers reported that 51,593 vehicles passed their school buses illegally on a single day during the 2021-2022 school year. In 2019, the last year the survey was conducted before COVID-19 school closures and the worsening of the school bus driver shortage, NASDPTS found that 130,963 — roughly 27 percent of the nation’s school bus drivers — reported 95,319 vehicles passed their school buses illegally.
School Transportation News confirmed with Ronna Weber, executive director of NASDPTS, that the association used a figure of 361,420 school bus drivers listed in a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report for May 2021 to calculate the survey participation.
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“Given the lower number of drivers participating this year versus our 2019 survey, we think it is helpful to compare the years. Adjusting for 100 percent of the school bus drivers in the U.S., we would have seen just over 232,000 illegal passings in both 2019 and 2022,” NASDPTS states in its 2022 results. “Throughout a 180-day school year, these sample results point to more than 41.8 million violations per year among America’s motoring public.”
Pat McManamon, president of NASDPTS and a highway safety specialist with the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, added that the number of illegal passings of stopped school buses is at an “epidemic level.” He said that the safety of the nation’s children is put into question because some motorists are either not paying attention or are in a hurry.
“This is simply unacceptable,” he continued. “Motorists must understand the rules of the road and must follow them every single day.”
Based on the reporting data, a majority of illegal passings took place either in the evening, (26,712) or the morning (24,440), as opposed to mid-day routes. Additionally, motorists typically passed from the front (63 percent) and passed on the left (97 percent).
NASDPTS noted that since the survey originated in 2011, and despite skipping it in 2020 and 2021, states have increased penalties for violations, authorized the use of photo evidence for issuing citations or enacted other measures to deter the dangerous practices.
NASDPTS added that as the new school year ramps up, it encourages state directors, local school districts, law enforcement agencies, legislators, and the motoring public to “redouble their efforts to reduce the ongoing threat to the safety of students posed by distracted driving and illegal passing of school buses.”