Across the country, students are heading back to school as the summer comes to a close. Nearly 26 million school-aged children in the United States take a school bus to and from class and millions more walk between school and home each day. Traveling to and from school should be safe for kids, but a new report from American Traffic Solutions (ATS) finds that it isn’t.
Drivers who choose to speed in school zones or fly past stopped school buses endanger the well-being of students—whether they’re entering or exiting the school bus or walking through a school zone. The new ATS report details the risks that our children face no matter how they travel to school and outlines solutions that many communities have implemented to help keep kids safe.
Risks of Riding the Bus
Blatant disobedience of school bus laws poses a dangerous threat to student safety. In a single school day in 2014, school bus drivers across the country recorded 75,966 vehicles that passed school buses illegally. If projected over an entire school year, that number would reach 15 million.
Enforcement of school bus stop arm violations is incredibly difficult. Drivers are concerned with child safety and have difficulty recording information about the violations, while local law enforcement officials are spread thin when it comes to enforcing a number of traffic violations.
Dangers of Walking in a School Zone
School zones were designed as low-speed areas in an effort to increase the safety of children walking or biking to school. However, two-thirds of drivers speed and one in six are distracted when they drive through these designated areas.
When it comes to injuries and fatalities—speed matters. A pedestrian struck by a car traveling at 20 miles per hour has a 95 percent chance of survival. At 30 miles per hour, that survival rate drops to 60 percent. At 40 miles per hour, it drops to a shocking 20 percent. The chance of survival is even lower for children.
Camera technology is a critical tool in increasing student safety and changing driver behavior. School bus stop arm cameras are affixed to the outside of school buses to capture images and video of drivers who illegally pass the bus while the stop arm is deployed. The benefits of the cameras are two-fold—they allow drivers to focus on the safety of their passengers and teach drivers that there are consequences for disobeying the stop arm law. In the communities where school bus stop arm cameras are used, more than 99 percent of drivers who received and paid a citation did not go on to receive a second citation. In other words, the cameras are improving driver behavior.
Speed safety cameras are also keeping children safe in school zones by providing enforcement when police offers are unable to be present. For example, the city of Seattle has seen school zone speeding violations decrease by 27 percent since it began its speed safety camera program at the end of 2012.
For more information on the dangers that children face as they travel to school and the solutions available to improve their safety, read the ATS report.