ESC Region 19 Head Start Launches School Bus Stop Arm Camera Program
Children on board an ESC Region 19 Head Start School bus will have an added measure to keep them safe. Today, ESC Region 19 Head Start announced it has joined other area school districts in adding the BusGuard Stop Arm Camera system to all 43 of its buses.
The Stop Arm camera system, which has been in its pilot phase since February, is set to be officially employed in early April, at which time ESC Region 19 Head Start will have the ability to cite drivers in violation of the Stop Arm law.
Over 20 million children ride school buses, nationwide, and they are particularly vulnerable when entering or exiting a bus. School buses utilize flashing red lights and an automatic stop sign to signal drivers to yield when they are boarding or releasing children. Still, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) reported that nearly 100,000 drivers indicate that 88,025 vehicles passed their buses illegally on a single day. Such violations have resulted in injuries and fatalities in children. According to the NASDPTS there are approximately 16,450 bus stop arm violations a day in Texas, 2.96 million each school year.
The purpose of the Stop Arm Camera system is to act as a deterrent for drivers who fail to stop when school buses have their cautionary stop arms extended. The system starts recording the instant the stop arm is extended, automatically capturing the license number of any motorist who fails to stop.
Head Start Director of Transportation, John H. Alarcon says the new system is a necessary step towards ensuring the safety of Head Start children and family members boarding and dismounting the bus. “Our pilot phase was eye-opening. In that two month time period we observed 305 violations in which drivers ignored the Stop Arm and passed as children were getting on or off the bus,” says Alarcon. “That’s 15 violations per school bus, per month - it’s unacceptable for our children’s safety.”
Because laws in each state vary, many drivers are uncertain of the exact laws regarding stopped school buses. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety regulations, a driver traveling in either direction must stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped and operating a visual signal. The driver may not proceed until one of the following occurs, the school bus resumes motion; the operator is signaled by the bus driver to proceed; or the visual signal is no longer activated.
In addition to the Stop Arm cameras, on board GPS, and interior cameras on all of its buses, Region 19 Head Start Transportation is developing a bus safety campaign to inform parents of the new initiative as well as educate them on bus transportation safety and state regulations. “Education is most important,” says Alarcon. “Citations are just a deterrent, we’d rather all drivers - civilian and bus drivers know the law and be cognitive of children’s safety when driving.”