Technology Demonstration Highlights Potential Benefits of Federal School Bus Stop Legislation

A bipartisan group promoted School Bus Safety Week by highlighting efforts to prevent illegal passing. Shown are Reps. Walorski and Brownley, with Chris Akiyama from Safe Fleet in the foreground.
A bipartisan group promoted School Bus Safety Week by highlighting efforts to prevent illegal passing. Shown are Reps. Walorski and Brownley, with Chris Akiyama from Safe Fleet in the foreground.

Congressional representatives who are championing a federal bill that targets motorists who illegally pass school buses marked National School Bus Safety Week by attending a demonstration of the very technologies they want to implement. 

U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), and Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), sponsors of the STOP for School Buses Act, attended a school bus safety technology showcase that was hosted by the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) on Wednesday. The event featured a school bus that was equipped with examples of technology that is used to prevent stop-arm violations.

“Every driver shares the roads with school buses, and we all have a role to play in keeping kids safe,” Rep. Walorski said. “Today’s event was an important opportunity to learn more about innovative technologies that can help prevent drivers from illegally passing school buses, and to discuss our bipartisan efforts in Congress to ensure students are safe on their way to and from school. The STOP for School Buses Act will help states and local communities take the most effective actions to prevent tragedies and save lives.”

Indiana Fatalities Remembered

Oct. 30 marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic deaths of three young Indiana students, twin boys, and their step-sister, who were killed by a motorist as they crossed a rural road to board their waiting school bus. The driver was found guilty this week of three counts of reckless homicide.

Sen. Young said that the state and the entire nation can no longer accept similar tragedies as the new normal. “Today was an opportunity to raise support for the Stop for School Buses Act and spread awareness for the much-needed review of existing safety laws surrounding our school buses,” he added.

Congresswoman Brownley noted, “As a mom and a former school board member, ensuring our children get safely to and from school every day is an issue that is near and dear to my heart.” She commented that “We need to do more to educate drivers and to assess new technologies that can prevent illegal school bus passing. Kids’ lives depend on it.”

Sen. Peters added, “No parent should ever have to worry about their child being injured or even losing their life while waiting for or boarding their school bus. He said that “We’ve seen a growing number of incidents that pose a risk to the safety of our students and we must take action. It’s time for the Senate to pass the STOP for School Buses Act. I am hopeful that new technologies, combined with a comprehensive review of best school bus safety practices, will help dramatically reduce these tragic accidents.”

John Benish, Jr., NSTA president and chief operating officer of school bus contractor Cook-Illinois Corporation in Chicago, said the event demonstrated the growing problem of illegal passing of stopped school buses and showcased new technologies that promise to prevent the problem.

“NSTA thanks Congresswomen Walorski and Brownley, and Senators Young and Peters, for being present with us today, and for their tremendous leadership on this issue, and all who attended the event today,” said Benish. “We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to advance this legislation and prevent needless tragedies.”

Benish added, “As a father of four, and an owner a family operated school transportation company ensuring students are transported in a safe and efficient manner, is of utmost importance. I look forward to a continuing dialogue with policymakers about ways we can make the safest form of transportation even safer.”

One of the technologies that was demonstrated is a predictive stop-arm system from Safe Fleet that uses artificial intelligence to determine if other vehicles on the road will stop or not for the school bus. If it determines a vehicle is about to pass, it sounds an alarm to warn the students and emits visible signals to the school bus driver.

“As the industry’s trusted leader in school bus safety technologies for over 20 years, we are pleased to have participated in today’s live demonstrations,” said Chris Akiyama, vice president of school buses at Safe Fleet. “Earlier today, we showed the Predictive Stop Arm and Driver Alert solutions in action and how they can proactively keep students out of harm’s way. Our solution aims to save lives by gauging the risk of stop-arm violations, and notifying drivers and students before an accident occurs. We look forward to a future where the School Bus Danger Zone can become a safety zone.”

NSTA thanked the sponsors and cosponsors of the STOP Act for their leadership in advancing the legislation.

Curt Macysyn, NSTA executive director, told School Transportation News, “The precipitous growth of this illegal, and dangerous activity by distracted motorists, continues to highlight the need for immediate passage of the STOP for School Buses Act.”

Legislation Background

Walorski, Young, Brownley and Peters, earlier this year introduced the STOP for School Buses Act (H.B. 2218 / S.B. 1254), to improve student safety by examining ways to prevent dangerous, illegal passing of school buses when children are present. The bipartisan, bicameral bill would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a comprehensive review of existing laws and programs, recommend best practices and create a nationwide public safety campaign.

The STOP for School Buses Act would order a comprehensive, nationwide review of efforts to prevent illegal passing of buses. Under the bill, USDOT would:

  • Compile illegal passing laws in all states, including levels of enforcement and penalties.
  • Review existing public safety measures and programs to prevent illegal passing of school buses.
  • Issue recommendations on best practices for preventing illegal passing.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies that may help prevent illegal passing incidents.
  • Review driver education materials in all states to determine whether more information about illegal passing should be provided to drivers.
  • Research connections between the illegal passing of school buses and other safety issues.
  • Create and execute a public safety messaging campaign to promote safe driving when children are present and highlight the dangers of illegal passing.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana and is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.