Montana is now the first state in the U.S. to mandate stop-arms that extend into the opposing lane of traffic.
Gov. Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 267 on May 12 to improve student safety while unloading and loading the school bus. The bill was reportedly inspired by Jordana Hubble, who was hit by a vehicle while getting off her school bus in November 2019. She has since been recovering from a traumatic brain injury.
The new law prohibits motorists from passing school buses on the right-hand side where students load and unload and requires the use of extended stop-arms in certain circumstances.
“When a school bus route includes a bus stop that requires a schoolchild to cross a roadway, the school bus must be equipped with an extended stop-arm that partially obstructs the roadway,” the law states. “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.”
It adds that the extended stop-arm must be equipped with additional flashing lights and must be capable of extending a distance of at least 54 inches from the school bus and at a height of no less than 36 inches. A school district’s board of trustees must approve each bus stop that requires a student to cross the roadway.
“We are pleased to see that Montana will be leading the nation in school bus safety,” said Scott Geyer, the vice president of Bus Safety Solutions, which manufacturer’s extended stop-arms. “Extending a stop-arm into an opposing lane is the most effective way to reduce stop-arm violations. Independent studies have shown a 90 percent reduction in stop-arm violations.”
HB 267 also requires law enforcement to follow up on reports of motorists’ illegal passing stopped school buses.
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Meanwhile, Gov. Gianforte also signed House Bill 207 last month. This law authorizes the use of additional flashing red lights on a school bus. It amends the previous law that stated only four red lights can be installed.
School buses can now include four or more red, amber lights, that are authorized to be used when a school bus is preparing to stop and when loading and unloading children.