Drivers continue to bypass the stop arms on school buses at a high rate, but progress is being recorded, a new Maryland State Department of Education-sponsored survey has revealed.
Stop arms swing out from a bus and lights flash whenever it is making an on-roadway student pick-up. A total of 3,392 violations of school bus stop arms were recorded on a single day last spring. While that rate is less than half that of the initial survey in 2011, when more than 7,000 violations were recorded, nearly seven in 10 bus drivers witnessed a violation.
“Schools are set to open, and student safety is our paramount concern. Drivers must understand that it is illegal to pass a bus with its stop arm extended and its lights flashing,” said State Superintendent Lillian M Lowery. “While we are gratified with the progress being made, we want to emphasize that every student of ours is precious. There are no excuses for this violation.”
MSDE coordinated the survey in April along with school transportation directors in all 24 systems. It is considered a snapshot of illegal activity on the roads. More than 70 percent of the Maryland school bus drivers took part in the survey, compared to 63 percent completing the survey last year.
Violations have steadily declined over the three years the survey has been conducted. Bus drivers witnessed 7,011 violations in 2011, a number that fell to 4,657 last year. School systems and bus drivers have been raising awareness about stop arm violations for the past two years.
Large systems with more buses and bus routes noted the most violators. Montgomery County school bus drivers tallied the most—1,078 drivers ignoring the stop arm&38212;but that was down more than 400 from last year. Violations in Baltimore County dropped by more than 50 percent, 1,143 to 499, while violations in Frederick County dropped from 238 to just 24. Drivers in three small counties—Kent, Somerset, and Talbot—did not find a violation.
The survey was undertaken at the behest of a number of members of the Maryland General Assembly, which has been monitoring school bus safety. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) is coordinating surveys of this type in all 50 States. Passing a school bus with its lights flashing is illegal in all 50 states (PDF).
While a smaller number of buses participated in Illinois and data are only available, at this time, for 2011 and 2012, the number of violations observed in Illinois on a one-day snapshot decreased from 3,108 in 2011 to 2,114 in 2012.