Students are at most risk when they are loading and off-loading the bus. One-third of the children who died in school transportation-related crashes between 2006-2015 were killed while they were approaching or leaving the bus. This area is known as the school bus ‘Danger Zone.’ Inexperienced or unfocused students, distracted and/or indifferent drivers and blind spots make this area a high-risk zone and despite the industry’s best efforts, it remains high-risk today.
The Numbers Speak For Themselves
Danger Zone student deaths fell by 75% in the 2019/2020 school year. These low rates can be credited to the COVID-19 pandemic that saw schools closed and kids stay home for a large part of the school year. Even with scaled-down attendance levels, 4 fatalities were attributed to school bus crossings in the 2020 school year.
Has Anything Really Changed?
Not yet. Drivers are still distracted in growing numbers. In 2019, there were over 3,100 deaths and 424,000 injuries attributed to distracted driving.
Car use is also on the rise. The number of cars on US roadways increased by 10 million in the past four years.
There are also the disinterested drivers. Those who are indifferent to rules and regulations. These drivers often need to be scared by an event or a near-miss before they change their behaviors. Until vehicles take direction from school buses, without human intervention, these drivers will always present a risk.
We’ve been trying to tackle this issue as an industry for years. Collectively, we’ve made inroads, but to bring the number of students affected by school transportation crashes closer to zero, we must also consider solutions that don’t rely on human attention. We must consider technology as part of the safety mix to protect students outside the bus.
Lawmakers are looking to speed up this process with H.R. 3684. Section 24110 mandates a review of illegal passing laws in each state with the goal of identifying best practices to address vehicles that pass stopped buses. The bill also focuses on technologies that improve the safety of loading and unloading students and reduce illegal passing of stopped school buses.
What This Means For School Transportation Directors
Increasing distraction and increasing traffic mean transportation directors have an increased risk of student injury. There are steps to take to combat this.
Find suppliers who drive change:
Look for innovative suppliers who are changing the status quo but can also prove results. Talk to peers known for being pioneers and hear their thoughts on what works for them and what doesn’t. Look for ways to integrate what you have with new technologies that improve your level of safety.
Look for ways to cut costs:
Select technologies that work together but can be added one at a time. Your end goal of course, is to have these technologies all playing well together and upping your safety game.
There are funds out there and they are easier to access than you might think. Especially if you apply for fund matching assistance. These services guide you throughout the entire application journey. That dream safety system you’ve always wanted could be within your grasp!
Thoroughly vet your partners:
Ask about equipment lifespans, software backwards compatibility and legacy system support. The answers to these questions can reveal a lot. Ask for references and the supplier’s ability to play with other providers. Look closely at their existing offerings and whether they integrate well. And plan ahead – ask them for insight into their technology roadmap.
Technical Advantages Are Here
At Safe Fleet, we believe intelligence and advanced technology bring together the value of each individual safety tool – mirrors, video, stop arms/cameras, sensors and crossing arms – for a complete view of what’s going on around the bus. At the center of this technology mix are radar and predictive analytics that monitor oncoming vehicle traffic for probable stop arm violations.
This combination of safety tools and technology still alerts motorists the school bus is stopping via flashing lights and stop arms. School bus drivers still use mirrors, crossing arms and sensors to mitigate blind spots. Drivers responsible for illegal passing still receive tickets for their offenses. Education and awareness programs still spread the word on what is expected of drivers on the road and the repercussions of not adhering to posted laws.
But the students themselves? In a novel and completely innovative approach – the advanced technology engages with the students directly by telling them to stay back when the risk of a stop arm violation is high. Unlike any other system, this advanced technology solution alerts students to take immediate and life-saving action. It helps keep students from entering into the Danger Zone in the first place.
This comprehensive combination provides the most complete safety coverage for students outside the bus.
Where Are We Headed?
All signs point to busier and more congested roads with more cars and distracted drivers. Never before have we had such an alignment of effective, proven and available technology, lawmakers validating the importance of addressing these critical issues with technology, and funding to support school districts in doing their very best to protect our hopes for the future – students.
Now is the time to start investigating technologies that serve your needs today and build a platform for the future.
Safe Fleet Can Get You There
It takes a village to raise a child and keep that child safe. In the case of safety at the stop, that village includes parents, school transporters and vendors. Safe Fleet is leading the charge with a vision to reduce preventable deaths and injuries in and around fleet vehicles, with a goal of ZERO accidents.
Their Predictive Stop Arm® is a patented solution that uses radar technology and predictive analytics to monitor oncoming vehicle traffic and determine whether a vehicle has sufficient time to slow down and stop or whether a stop arm violation is probable. If the system perceives that a student should not cross, the student will hear “Danger, Get Back,” emitted from speakers mounted outside the bus and the bus operator will receive a visual alert inside the bus.
See it in action:
Contact Safe Fleet to learn more.