Two new illegal passing surveys by the National Highway of Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) aim to assess the knowledge of drivers nationwide about the laws governing passing a stopped school bus.
NHTSA published a notice on Friday in the Federal Register to request approval from the Office of Management and Budget to conduct research on drivers of motor vehicles and their knowledge of passing a stopped school bus. The agency previously announced its intent to study the phenomenon.
The first study samples motorists to determine their knowledge and attitudes of laws regarding illegally passing a stopped school bus that is engaged in picking up and dropping off student passengers. It will also gage motorists’ opinions on the safest behaviors when encountering a school bus on the roadway. NHTSA said it hopes to have 3,000 fully completed national surveys for study one, conducted via AmeriSpeak, an online survey hosting site.
Study two will look at two communities with differing levels of camera enforcement of bus passing laws, to determine the effectiveness of a school bus camera enforcement system combined with police enforcement and public education.
The survey results will examine awareness of the enforcement and camera programs, driver knowledge of and attitudes toward school bus passing laws, and self-reported behavior, when encountering a school bus on the roadway before and after the program has been implemented.
The need for the information comes from NHTSA’s longstanding concern regarding fatalities in the “Danger Zone,” defined as the 10-foot perimeter around school buses when students are loading and unloading. NHTSA also cited the high number of illegal passers in the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) long-standing illegal passing survey.
The NASDPTS survey focuses on a one-day count of illegal passing incidents. Last year, the association extrapolated that 17 million stop-arm violations occur each school year across the U.S. Last year’s survey was conducted across 39 states, and 27 percent of the nation’s school bus drivers at the time counted a total of 95,319 stop-arm violations occurring in one day.
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This year, however, NASDPTS canceled its one-day voluntary survey, due to school districts across the nation closing their doors during the new coronavirus pandemic.
NASDPTS stated that it supports the NHTSA initiative. NHTSA is seeking public comments on its research surveys by Sept. 15.