School districts in Illinois may soon be able to test drive new school bus safety equipment, including extended stop-arms.
Sens. Chapin Rose and Neil Anderson along with Rep. Mike Murphy co-sponsor Senate Bill 1808, which was introduced on Feb. 26 to amend the state vehicle code regarding special equipment for school buses. It would provide that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) may establish by rule a pilot program to permit the testing of safety equipment that is not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law.
According to a press release issued by Rose’s office, the legislation was inspired by the Monticello Community Unit School District, as officials there wanted to try and reduce illegal passing by using extended stop-arms on buses.
Bus Safety Solutions, the creator of the Extended Stop-Arms technology, told School Transportation News this legislation would allow safety devices to exceed the width restrictions for school buses in Illinois.
“Evidently, this was the sticking point for the state troopers to prohibit extended stop arms,” commented Scott Geyer, the company’s vice president.
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“I see extended stop-arms as another possible way to improve student safety by creating a physical deterrent for vehicles passing stopped buses. A vehicle will be better able to see that the stop-arm is out as it is extended into the oncoming lane of traffic. This creates an optional safety device for school districts to consider to improve safety,” added Monticello Superintendent Dr. Vi Zimmerman. “I’m excited to hopefully be a part of this pilot program in Illinois. This has been an ongoing effort that required discussions with the National Transportation Safety Board and IDOT over several years. One question that was asked during the process was, ‘Could a vehicle passing a stopped school bus using an extended stop-arm get damaged if it runs into the stop arm?’ The answer is ‘yes’ that’s the point of it.”
Rose added that the pilot program can result in more “sensible rules” going forward. “Student safety, not some bureaucratic rule should be our top priority,” he concluded.
SB 1808 passed the Senate on April 23 and is now in the House for consideration.