Report: More Than 15 Million School Bus Stop-Arm Violations Occurred in 2012

By Kelly Roher

The third national stop-arm running survey found 85,279 violations in a single day, which is down from last year’s count of 88,025.

The survey was conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), and the association released the results on August 13.

More than 108,000 school bus drivers in 29 states participated in the survey. Officials said that throughout a 180-day school year, the sample results of 85,279 violations in a single day point to over 15 million violations by private motorists.

“There are nearly a half million school buses on the road each day in the United States,” said Max Christensen, president of NASDPTS. “This survey captured only a fraction of the violations that bus drivers and other professionals in school transportation and law enforcement know are occurring each and every day. Students are far safer in school buses than other ways of getting to school, but when they are outside the bus in the danger zone, they are quite vulnerable. Any driver who passes a stopped school bus illegally is gambling with a child’s life.”

NASDPTS first coordinated the annual stop-arm count in 2011, in which 76,685 illegal passes were documented during the one-day survey. In 2012, that number increased to 88,025.

For this year, 45.4% of the illegal passes were observed in the morning, and 50.1% were observed in the afternoon (or p.m.) runs. Mid-day violations accounted for 4.5% of those reported by bus drivers.

More than half (57.5%) of the vehicles passed the buses from the front, while 42.5% of those counted passed the buses from the rear. These findings are fairly consistent with last year’s figures.

Almost 98% of the vehicles passed the buses on the left side, and just over 2% passed the buses on the right; these figures are also fairly consistent with the 2012 findings.

Based on these data and recent student fatalities, some states are adopting more stringent safety countermeasures, such as improved motorist education, increased fines and more law enforcement, including the use of photo evidence from cameras mounted on the sides of school buses, NASDPTS said.

Most recently, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law legislation that enacts stiffer penalties for motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses.

And in South Carolina, a campaign to raise awareness on the dangers of stop-arm running has gained some legislative support.

Officials for NASDPTS emphasized that there is no single solution to this problem. A comprehensive approach, involving education, enforcement and engineering, will be necessary to reduce illegal passing and achieve the goal of zero fatalities to students during transportation to and from school.

As a result of a resolution adopted by NASDPTS and its members at its most recent conference, the association will also be researching state laws and rules to provide a nationwide inventory of required procedures for when motorists must stop for school buses. The research will document the consequences in different states for violations, whether video evidence is admissible in each state, and, what other types of evidence are necessary for law enforcement agencies to issue citations for illegally passing a stopped school bus.

To view this year’s stop-arm violation report in full, click here.

Kelly Roher is managing editor for School Bus Fleet magazine.

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