The loss of these lives and the millions of near-accident misses documented each year have sparked widespread outrage and prompted increased interest in technology specifically designed to enhance student safety outside the bus.
This is why Derrick Agate, transportation supervisor for Hopkins Public Schools in Minnesota, began testing the Safe Fleet Predictive Stop Arm™, an innovative solution that proactively aims to keep students from stepping onto the road when a stop arm violation is likely to occur.
It didn’t take long for the system to prove its worth. Within months of the initial implementation, the System helped protect a student.
“The student got off the bus while looking at their cell phone,” explains Agate. “The stop arm was extended and an oncoming vehicle was approaching quickly. The PSA audible alarm literally kept this student from getting hit by the passing motorist.” The safety of this one student was an immediate return on investment as far as Agate was concerned.
The Predictive Stop Arm uses patents-pending and other advanced technologies to monitor oncoming traffic, measuring the vehicle’s speed and distance from the school bus. Analytics algorithms process the data from the radar sensors and determine whether the vehicle has sufficient time to slow down and stop, or whether a stop arm violation is probable. If the system perceives that students should not cross, audible and visual warnings are issued to the driver and audible warnings are issued to the students advising them to get back.
The Search for a Solution to Keep Students from Harm
Agate took an in-depth look into the stop arm camera as a stand-alone tool and found that while the solution did offer a deterrent to illegal passbys; it did not eliminate the underlying risk to the students, the parents, the school board, and the school board’s credibility and authority.
Hopkins Public Schools chose to integrate the Predictive Stop Arm with Stop Arm Cameras for a comprehensive solution to student safety outside the school bus. These two solutions working together allowed Hopkins to approach the issue more holistically—the PSA helped keep students from risk in the first place and the Stop Arm Camera enabled prosecution in the event action could change a behavior or make a positive difference.
Increased Safety with the Predictive Stop Arm
Within weeks of implementation, school bus drivers noted many instances where students were cautioned to stay back when risk was detected.
The Predictive Stop Arm doesn’t replace a bus driver’s responsibility, but adds another level of student safety and helps drivers remain focused on the task at hand. The driver as part of the safety system can see the PSA is predicting a likely stop arm violation, sees the car approaching and knows the system is predicting the very action the driver is about to witness. The driver can still honk the bus horn and follow established processes even as the PSA is alerting the students to get back and not cross the road.
Many school bus drivers think of the students as their kids—not one driver wants to see an injury of any kind occur to one of their kids. And yet, drivers feel powerless when it comes to protecting students from injury outside the bus. Drivers have noted the Predictive Stop Arm helps alleviate some of this pressure.
Now is the Time to Act
Agate firmly believes distracted driving is the reason for increased stop-arm violations and associated student injury and death. “Motorists don’t intentionally want to hit a child, but they get distracted, and not just with cell phones,” he says. “People do so much in their cars right now—there are more things to distract motorists when they are in their cars than ever before.”
“Who wants to be the person who says we had the opportunity to eliminate this, but we didn’t,” says Agate. “If I were talking to a transportation director who was considering the Predictive Stop Arm, I would tell them this technology is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time and if we are talking about keeping our kids safe, this is a tool that will keep the child from being in a position where they are going to get hit.”
Learn more about the Predictive Stop Arm by registering for the Safe Fleet webinar, Beyond Stop Arm Cameras: How to Decrease Illegal Passing Accidents.
Note: No system can prevent all incidents. Inattentive drivers, weather, erratic student behavior, and other factors can inhibit detection and overall system performance. Drivers must always keep proper lookout.