Latest NASDPTS Survey Reminds of School Bus Illegal Passing Dangers

School bus using the extended stop arm with children present
A student crosses the street with the help of an extended stop arm designed to bring further visibility of bus stops to motorists. (Photo courtesy of Bus Safety Solutions.)

The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) said the results of its ninth annual illegal passing survey indicate over 17 million stop-arm violations occur each school year across the U.S. 

This year, NASDPTS reported that a record of 39 states participated in a one-day, voluntary count of illegal passing incidents.

NASDPTS’ announcement on July 24 stated that more than 27 percent of the nation’s school bus drivers (130,963) counted a total of 95,319 stop-arm violators.

“The numbers, while not a surprise to those who drive and oversee the nation’s school buses, point to an unacceptable number of dangerous driving practices by some of America’s motorists,” observed NASDPTS President Michael LaRocco. “We all share the responsibility to do whatever we can to eliminate this threat to the students riding our school buses.”

LaRocco pointed out that, “To amplify the shocking results from this school year was the fact that over a six-day period from Oct. 26, 2018, through Nov. 1, 2018, six students were killed, and eight students and two adults were injured by vehicles either violating school bus stop arms or hitting students and adults while they were waiting at a bus stop.”

These incidents occurred in Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania.

Millions of Violations Recorded

Throughout a 180-day school year, these sample results mean that there could be more than 17 million stop-arm violations committed by America’s motoring public. The number of incidents is likely far greater, though, since not all states or their school bus drivers participated in the voluntary survey, NASDPTS said.

“Despite the fact that students are much safer being transported to and from school in a school bus, students and adults at the bus stop are still very much at the mercy of inattentive motorists. The sheer volume of these illegal passing incidents in a day, let alone an entire school year, is tragic and sobering, particularly when you consider that these injuries and deaths are easily preventable,” said LaRocco.

He added, “I believe we need to get motorists to understand that, although their vehicles may be necessary in the function of their daily lives, they are also two-ton weapons in the hands of drivers who are not paying attention to the world around them as they drive our nation’s roads.”

NASDPTS Addresses Increased Penalties

According to NASDPTS, “The results of the surveys, conducted annually since 2011, have been unfortunately consistent. The survey results have brought needed attention among state and federal policymakers to the need for greater safety countermeasures.”

In recent years, several states have increased penalties for violations, authorized the use of photo evidence for issuing citations, or enacted other measures that are designed to deter this dangerous practice.

Joining Other Associations in Congress

This month, NASDPTS joined the National School Transportation Association and the National Association for Pupil Transportation in expressing support for the bipartisan STOP for School Buses Act of 2019 (H.R. 2218/S. 1254), introduced in the ouse by Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Julia Brownley (D-CA), and in the Senate by Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Gary Peters (D-MI).

NASDPTS said the legislation asks the U.S. Department of Transportation to undertake a comprehensive review of all issues that are involved with the illegal passing of school buses. The bill asks the DOT to implement best practices to deal with this chronic, national safety problem.

NASDPTS encouraged state directors, local school districts, law enforcement agencies, legislators, and the general motoring public, to redouble their efforts to reduce the ongoing threat to the safety of students that is posed by distracted driving and illegal passing of school buses.