Motorists continue to pass stopped school buses at an alarming rate despite more states enacting stop-arm enforcement legislation and increased use of school bus safety technology.
The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) released the results from its 11th annual survey on the illegal passing of school buses at the 2023 Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Monday.
The survey found that 94,581 school bus drivers in 33 states, about 25.8 percent of all school bus drivers nationwide, reported 62,482 vehicles passed their buses illegally on a single day during the 2022-2023 school year.
The number of one-day illegal passings climbs to over 242,000 when adjusted for 100 percent of the school bus drivers in the U.S. “Projected across a 180-day school year, these sample results point to more than 43.5 million violations per year among America’s motoring public,” NASDPTS added in a statement. “As the projected violations for the 2021-2022 school year were 41.8 million, we continue to see the problem of the illegal passing of stopped school buses increase.”
Previously, NASDPTS had extrapolated that more than 41.8 million violations occurred each year by using data from the two previous surveys conducted in 2019 and 2022 (the survey was put on hold for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic). Following last year’s survey, Pat McManamon, then president of NASDPTS and a highway safety specialist with the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, said school bus illegal passing incidents were at an “epidemic level.”
The most recent data indicates the problem is getting worse.
“The problem of illegally passing stopped school buses continues to increase,” said current NASDPTS President Mike Simmons. “We at the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services hope the results of this survey remind all motorists to pay attention to the yellow school bus, to follow the laws in their state, and stop to allow for the safe loading and unloading of each school bus. We encourage each state to use this information to bring attention to this critical safety issue and engage all resources necessary to ensure each child is protected.”
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Each participating state chose a day during the 2022-2023 school year to conduct the survey. The illegal passing counts were nearly spilt between afternoon (49.88 percent) and morning routes (46.62 percent) with mid-day routes filling in the other 3.5 percent of illegal passings.
The survey found that 62.53 percent of the illegal passings occurred when an oncoming vehicle was approaching the school bus, and 96.9 percent took place on the left-hand side, which means over 1,930 illegal passing incidents occurred on the right side of the school bus, where students board and exit.