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Montana House Bills Aim to Improve School Bus Safety

Two Montana bills passed the House this week to further improve student safety while they are transported via the yellow school bus.

HB 207, which was introduced last month by Rep. Neil Duram, would authorize the use of additional flashing red lights on school buses. It amends the previous law saying only four red lights can be installed.

If passed, school buses could be equipped with four or more amber signal lights to be used when preparing to stop and when loading and unloading children.

Meanwhile, HB 267, introduced at the same time by Duram, also aims to improve student safety while unloading and loading the school bus. The bill would prohibit motorists from passing school buses on the right-hand, student loading and unloading side and require the use of extended stop-arms in certain circumstances.

The bill states that when a stop requires a child to cross a roadway, the school bus must be equipped with an extended stop-arm that partially obstructs the roadway. “A school child may not cross a roadway to enter or exit from a school bus unless the roadway has been partially obstructed by the extended stop-arm,” the bill states.

Scott Geyer, the vice president of Bus Safety Solutions, a company that manufacturer’s extended stop-arms, told School Transportation News that Montana is the first state seeking legislation to require the additional safety measure.

Geyer added that the state currently has 44 extended stop-arms installed throughout 11 school districts. He said Montana has been testing the technology since 2019.

Related: Extended Stop Arm Now Installed on Over 1,000 School Buses Nationwide
Related: Attorney General Decision Clears Way for Extended School Bus Stop Arms
Related: Kansas Bill Allows Public-Private Partnerships for School Bus Stop-Arm Camera Installation
Related: Montana School District Faces Transportation Difficulties with CDC Guidelines
Related: Some Montana Schools Reopen Doors to Students Following Coronavirus Closures

HB 267 also states that the extended stop-arm must be equipped with additional flashing red lights and must be capable of extending at least 72 inches from the school bus at a height of no less than 36 inches.

The bill would also require that law enforcement follow up on reports of illegal passing. “The report must be investigated by a peace officer, and the investigating officer shall contact the reporting party within 30 days to provide an update on the status or outcome of the investigation,” the bill states.

Both bills have been referred to the senate committee of highways and transportation.

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