by Fatima A. | University of Calgary
Stop arm violations are potentially fatal traffic law infractions that constitute a severe response from the public and government, as motorists are gambling with the lives of children every time they pass a school bus while red lights are flashing.
Stop arm violations lay risk to all parties involved; the motorist and his passengers, the surrounding road users, the disembarking children, and the families of said children.
A motorist may commit a stop arm violation for a variety of reasons, and oftentimes one of those reasons is that the driver is in a hurry. Commonly drivers try to pass by switching to the left lane and back again, or if facing the bus, simply continue to drive, should they believe they can pass before any children exit. The former strategy is extremely dangerous because the motorist is attempting a passing maneuver without clear sight lines. He cannot see ahead very far and so cannot determine if there are any oncoming vehicles, nor can he see the children who are leaving the bus if they have not crossed the bus’ path yet. So by attempting to pass, the motorist could cause a head-on collision with oncoming vehicles who also did not bother to stop, or could hit a child in the process of switching lanes to the left and back again.
In the case of the latter, when drivers facing the bus simply continue driving, the speed of the car becomes more important. At high speeds when the motorist is rushing, his driving style becomes aggressive and opportunistic, meaning he might not see the children beginning to cross if the kids are not in his direct path. As a result, if he is speeding, he may not be able to stop in time once he notices the children crossing, and this results in fatal collisions.
In other cases, a driver who breaks the stop arm law may simply be uneducated on the matter. They don’t remember (or were never taught) what type of highway they need to stop on, the distance from the bus which they need to maintain, or may not know to stop at all! As a result, these motorists are ignorant of both the risks they are imposing upon young people and the financial penalties they may face. This poses an even bigger problem than the aforementioned drivers above who are knowingly not complying with the law. These motorists have never developed the habit to stop, should they train new drivers, the next generation of motorists are also at risk of ignorance.
Thus, a solution must be introduced. Installing cameras on busses and ticketing those who violate the no-passing law is certainly a powerful way to discourage irresponsible behavior, and increasing fines would be an effective way to reinforce and support this pre-existing measure. People do not repeat offenses when they pay heavily, so this method deals well with those who knowingly do not obey the law.
Another effective preventative measure lies in education. The government needs to educate motorists further on the consequences of their actions on the road, and sponsored programs will indeed reach far and wide, having a major effect on the population. This solution effectively deals with drivers who may have forgotten the laws surrounding school buses.
In conclusion, stop-arm violations are serious threats to the livelihoods of communities and must be dealt with accordingly. Employing heavier consequences and using education as a preventative measure are solutions that will certainly alleviate this problem.
This essay is part of a series that aims to engage teachers and educational professionals to share their thoughts on school bus safety. This submission is being considered as a winner for the BusPatrol Scholarship Program. https://www.buspatrolscholarship.com/ Please share this article to show your support.