Name: Sophia X. | University of Texas at Austin
School buses have long been a part of the neighborhood scenery. For students, these school buses represent a reliable transportation method. However, for many motorists caught behind them, these yellow buses are a nuisance, another component of traffic. As a result, the driver maneuvers around the stopped school bus. And voila, the stop-arm violation occurs.
The obvious problem with stop-arm violations is safety. While motorists may believe themselves to be cautious when they look for students, their judgment is not devoid of mistakes. And if a school bus is stopped, this must mean that a student is getting off of the bus. This sets up a dangerous situation of miscommunication; these students have the right of way, but motorists who aren’t careful may violate this right of way, leading to accidents. However, despite the clear risks of these situations, stop-arm violations still occur with high frequency. For example, according to a study conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety, stop-arm violations occur over 1,900,000 times each year.
So why is a clearly dangerous situation occurring so frequently? The problem lies in awareness and enforcement. For one, the laws regarding stop-arm violations are not as advocated as other laws. Thus drivers are less aware of the consequences of these violations. Additionally, even if these drivers are aware of stop-arm violations, the punishments for stop-arm violations are not heavily enforced, causing many drivers to ignore them.
In order to alleviate this problem, I would implement programs that specifically target awareness and enforcement. For example, the lack of awareness regarding stop-arm violations could be addressed through driver education programs. It seems that these programs focus heavily on matters such as distracted driving and drunk driving. While these matters are rightfully emphasized, the topic of stop-arm violations is too brief in comparison. In some programs, stop-arm violations are not even mentioned.
As such, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Safety should mandate stricter guidelines for these programs. In terms of enforcement, in the status quo, it is impossible to maintain constant police surveillance at bus stop areas to ensure that motorists are following the law. However, with the use of technology, this constant surveillance could be maintained by strategically placing cameras on school buses.
These cameras would function similarly to traffic cameras, by capturing pictures of cars engaging in illegal bus passing. These pictures would be sent to local law enforcement and adequate punishments could be enforced according to the law. Additionally, depending on the location of the school bus relative to the motorist, some motorists may not notice the stopped bus and continue to drive through. As such, in order to ensure that motorists on both sides of traffic will stop, buses could use audio signals such as a horn or another sound to let drivers know about students crossing.
Stop-arm violations may be less known, but they occur daily. But with programs increasing awareness and enforcement of these stop-arm violations, our community will be safer.
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.