Nearly 500,000 school buses are on the roads in the United States every Monday through Friday. Millions of children are entering and exiting these buses each day, and when these children are getting on and off the buses the drivers activate a clearly visible stop arm that extends from the driver’s side of the bus. This stop arm – along with the flashing lights and written warning on each bus – is designed to alert drivers to stop because children are in or near the road.
Each of the past three years, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) has conducted a survey of stop arm violations observed by bus drivers. In 29 states, over 108,000 bus drivers reported their observations for one pre-determined day. The 2013 survey found that 85,279 stop arm violations occurred – in a single day! While that number is alarming, the fact is that there were even more stop arm violations reported for the single-day survey in 2012: 88,025.
Of these 85,279 stop arm violations observed on the day surveyed in 2013, 98% occurred by vehicles passing on the driver’s side of the bus. Incredibly, 2% of stop arm violations occurred by a vehicle passing on the right side of the bus. Just to be clear, that is the side of the bus where the door is typically located – the exact place where children are entering and exiting the bus! And these illegal passes are occurring while the driver has the stop arm out!
Frankly, it is a miracle that more of our nation’s children are not killed by stop arm violators every day. If you are driving and see a school bus with its stop arm out, please stop. If you disobey the stop arm, you are not only breaking the law, you are risking the lives of our community’s children.
This is an editorial by Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell. Supporting statistics may be found at www.nasdpts.org.