Effingham County School District manages a fleet of 121 school buses that drive 366 routes, taking an estimated 8,000 students to and from school every day. The safety of these students is paramount to Transportation Coordinator, Brett Martin.
Stop-arm violations were becoming more and more of a concern in the district, with one too many near accidents. Martin explained: “A few years ago, we did have a child nearly hit. It easily could have been a fatality because that car came around the bus at around 60 miles an hour, with the kid crossing just in front.”
In this particular incident, the child’s grandfather was waiting at the stop and was able to help the bus driver get the number plate of the violator. However, drivers that illegally pass stop-arms often get away without any form of citation. Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie described the difficulty with catching stop-arm violations: “Beforehand, bus drivers would need to get a vehicle description and a tag number. A lot of cases happened so quickly that they weren’t able to get a tag number. Without evidence, it’s very difficult to enforce.”
To prevent any fatalities in the future, Effingham County Schools and Effingham County Sheriff’s Office decided to partner with BusPatrol to tackle dangerous stop-arm violations.
BusPatrol conducted a stop-arm camera pilot program in Effingham to raise awareness and highlight the need for a school bus stop-arm safety program to deter violators. The pilot program captured more than 300 violations in two months on three buses. That’s equivalent to five violations per bus, per school day.
Effingham County School District installed BusPatrol stop-arm enforcement technology including stop-arm cameras on its buses in March 2019. This technology was installed at zero cost to the school district. The program is violator-funded, meaning that drivers that ignore the school bus stopping law are the ones that pay for the program.
According to the Sheriff, the program has received good feedback from the community, especially school bus drivers: “I’ve spoken to bus drivers and the manager of the school bus fleet, and they absolutely love it. It’s been a great tool for them. It makes things a lot easier for them to be able to provide us with information because it’s all documented.”
A zero-cost safety program that saves you time and money
The BusPatrol safety program has also helped law enforcement to save on resources: “In the past, I was having to actually put people on the bus and have them take pictures and watch for violations and then call another car to issue a citation. Being able to use BusPatrol has saved us a ton of money by being able to use this system as opposed to tying up four or five deputies trying to do it the other way […] You can use this technology to help spread the man-hours out and not keep burning up manpower hours. We’ve made some real savings.”
The importance of education
A lack of awareness and understanding of the law is one of the main reasons that people violate school bus stopping laws in Effingham, according to Martin. The school district hopes to work with BusPatrol to educate drivers on the importance of stopping for the school bus.
BusPatrol safety programs are proven to change driver behavior and create a culture of awareness around school buses.
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