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This paper identifies the problems children in the United States and Canada face on a daily basis when boarding and departing school buses. Laws in North America, against school bus stop-arm violators, are not stringent enough and need to be readdressed. Solutions are offered as to how this problem can be rectified to reduce the number of annual fatalities caused by these violators. Statistics show that as of right now, laws are not effective enough to deter drivers from violating current state laws. If state laws were made to be uniform, harsher penalties imposed, and increased detection devise were implemented, the number of current offenders would be reduced.
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In recent months a disturbing trend in North America has increased drastically, drivers who fail to stop for stopped school buses. In most US states and Canadian provinces, laws require drivers on roads, travelling in either direction to stop for school buses with their stop signs extended and red lights flashing. The exception to this is most states and provinces do not require vehicles travelling in the opposing direction to stop if they are travelling on a divided highway. According to the National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey, between the years of 2007 and 2016, 87 children were killed by drivers who failed to stop for a school bus with their stop sign extended and red lights flashing (2018). Without immediate action, stop-arm offenders and the danger to our children will continue to rise.
Penalties for drivers who fail to stop for school buses are not stringent enough to deter them from putting children’s lives at risk. In addition, more detection methods need to be implemented to identify these offenders so penalties can be awarded.
States and provinces need to make laws regarding school bus stops identical. This would remove any confusion to drivers travelling outside of their home state or province, of the law of that state or province. For example, “Georgia law does not require a vehicle travelling on a three or five lane road divided by a center turn lane to stop for a school bus” (Tagami, 2018). The law in most states in the US requires drivers travelling on roads to stop unless they are travelling on a divided highway. Hypothetically, a driver from the state of Georgia travelling in Florida may think that the law of their home state also applies to the state of Florida. In this case, they may not think they are required to stop for a school bus while travelling on a four-lane road that is divided by only a turn lane, whereas in Florida they are required to do so.
Increasing the penalties to drivers who disobey state school bus laws, would, in turn, reduce the number of casualties due to school bus stop infractions. If fines are increased, or suspension of driving privileges to any driver who fails to stop at a school bus stop were to be implanted, drivers would be more inclined to obey state laws and therefore reduce the number of school bus stop fatalities. According to Reinke, a state lawmaker in Indiana has plans to introduce a bill in January 2019, that would impose stiffer penalties of stop-arm violators that could include jail time after the death of three siblings in October 2018 due at an Indiana school bus stop (2018).
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More stop arm offender detection measures would, in turn, lead to the conviction of offenders, therefore, reducing the number of infractions and the danger to our children. The installation of motion detectors and cameras on school buses would lead to the identification of offenders. This would, in turn, deter drivers from passing stopped school buses with their stop arm extended. According to Ncsl.org, as of 2018, only 16 states have implemented school bus stop-arm camera laws (2018). Increasing the number of states to implement this law would reduce the number of national fatalities and injuries caused by offenders.
The best immediate solution to combat the dangers caused by school bus stop-arm offenders is for states and provinces to institute stop-arm camera laws. This would, in turn, deter drivers from passing stopped school buses in the fear of their vehicle being identified and therefore, penalties being imposed in them.
As with stop light cameras, critics will argue that the installation of stop-arm cameras on school buses are unconstitutional, or that they do not accurately identify who was at the controls of the vehicle during the infraction. By installing both forward and aft facing video cameras on school buses, both the infraction and the driver can be caught on camera in the act of passing the stopped school bus. This, in turn, will supply irrefutable evidence of the violation.
In Indiana, “on one day in April this year, 3,082 cars violated the stop arm. 7,671 buses participated in the survey” (Reinke, 2018). With these statistics, it is only a matter of time before the US or Canada sees yet another victim of either a distracted driver or a driver a vehicle that does not feel that they need to stop for a stopped school bus, causing yet another fatality of one of our children. The quicker more stringent laws are passed, the safer our children will be at our countries school bus stops.
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