While a school bus is considered the safest mode of transport for school children, it is also true that children getting on or off a school bus and crossing the road are most vulnerable and at high risk of being hit by passing vehicles.
In spite of clear traffic laws and steep fines for school bus passing, an alarming number of motorists flout the rules on a daily basis.
In the US alone, an estimated 95,000 vehicles resort to illegal passing in a single day. Thankfully, the best school bus tracking system now offer some advanced features to combat this menace.
Here is a look at some of the new and effective ways to prevent illegal passing:
1.Advanced Video Cameras:
These are high resolution wide angled cameras attached to front and rear parts of school buses. These get activated each time the school bus halts and the Stop Arm is engaged.
They can detect passing vehicles, take high quality violation photos, and even record videos of the entire event which can be handed over to the traffic police.
This system is far better than the traditional multiple mirror system, which was both confusing and distracting for drivers. Now they need not worry about peering into side mirrors and jotting down license plate numbers.
2.Extended Stop Arms:
Much like the safety arms at the railway crossings, an Extended Stop Arm, 6 feet in length, opens up when the school bus stops, to restrict vehicles from passing too close to the school bus.
Unlike a regular Stop Arm, the extended stop arm is at once noticeable by car drivers from a reasonable distance, and they have no excuse not to stop.
This system was devised by retired safety engineers, was first tried out on 10 buses in the US, and proved to be so successful that it is now being used in over 15 states. Research indicates that it has helped to reduce illegal passing by as much as 89%.
3.Stop Arm Cameras:
This system is based on advanced motion detector sensors placed underneath the Stop Arms, which detect passing vehicles when the Stop Arm is out and the flashing lights are active.
The system comprises of two cameras, one in each direction to capture stills of vehicles passing from both sides, front and back. The cameras take a snap shot of the license plates, and other information such as date, time and GPS location are tagged on to the photos.
These are then uploaded to a central server or cloud-based system from where they can be shared with law enforcement as evidence.
This is a relatively more expensive option, but since it greatly reduces the liability with regard to insurance companies, it can be offset to some extent by reduced insurance premiums.
Nowadays, advanced stop arm cameras take snapshots as well as videos, and can directly send the feed to law enforcement so that they can take prompt action and bring defaulters to book.
When reinforced by the law enforcement authorities, Stop Arm Cameras are able to reduce illegal passing by up to 90%.
4.Supplemental Lighting Systems:
While one may argue that citizens who flout the school bus passing rules are irresponsible and inconsiderate towards child safety, the truth is that most people in today’s world are just too distracted and preoccupied to notice a stopped school bus on their daily commute.
They operate on auto pilot and therefore it would take something extraordinary to command their attention. What if more flashing lights were added to make people notice?
Many schools have tested out Additional Red LED lights on the front and back bumpers, that are activated along with the original LED lights when the bus stops. They are easily noticeable because they are positioned at eye level for most motorists.
This is a very simple and inexpensive option but proves to be quite effective. Stop arm violations are reduced by 50% by using this method.
Some schools are also trying out Fusion Warning Lights – a bigger, brighter and more effective warning light system that uses multiple colors and patterns, providing more visual stimulation, and therefore being more effective at commanding attention of motorists, even in foggy weather conditions.
5.Predictive Stop Arms
A new system is currently being tested out in some schools – as opposed to other systems that are reactive in nature, this system is proactive, and actually helps to prevent accidents by keeping the children safe.
The system uses Radar technology to detect a car at a distance of up to 300 yards and predictive analytics to predict if it is going to actually pass a stopped school bus, based on its speed and distance.
It then issues audible alerts on speakers for both the students as well as the bus driver in real time, warning them that a vehicle is approaching. Hence students are either stopped inside the bus itself or just before crossing over.
Between advanced telematics / AI based systems on one end of the spectrum, and simpler, cost effective lighting solutions on the other, we can hope to drastically reduce the safety risk to children in future, as far as illegal passing is concerned.
Meanwhile, a School Bus Tracker App with real time bus tracking, on-board diagnostics and customized alert notifications for schools, parents and transport agencies can help to ensure the all-round safety of the children, across their entire commute.
What is your evaluation of various methods to prevent illegal passing?
Do let us know your opinion by commenting below.