As winter weather approaches, driving conditions start to get a little more difficult. Adequate vision can be impaired during a snowstorm, and roads can get icy. That is why it's important to remember rules of the road while driving near school buses.
"The biggest concern we have as school bus drivers and in the industry as a whole is stop arm violations," said Raymond Gawron, director of Transportation and Driver Education at Palatine Schaumburg High School District 211. "There is no way to protect kids from stop arm violations. Our drivers check front and back, and then give them the OK to cross, but at any given time someone can commit that violation."
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Gawron said out of any sort of traffic violation, stop arm violations are the most prevalent. During one week in the beginning of the year, bus drivers were asked to keep track of how many stop arm violations were committed during that particular driver's route and the time of day. During the week, 106 buses completed the survey and there were a total of 111 stop arm violations in District 211. On one day nationally, there were 85,279 violations, according to the National Association of Pupil Transportation Services.
When the stop arm is present and lights are flashing, that means students are boarding and exiting the bus. If students are passing in front of a bus and a vehicle ignores the stop arm, that student is at a high risk of being struck. The district wants to remind the community that by taking an extra minute and obeying a school bus' stop arm and flashing lights, fewer students are at risk for injury during their commute.
"This is something we cannot control," Gawron said. "Everything else we have some control over, such as what intersections to stop at, whether or not to have kids cross the street, or putting a bus on one side of the street so they don't have to cross."
Bus drivers have taken an active approach to try and minimize these violations by working with local police municipalities. Drivers who pass a stop arm will have their license plate recorded by the bus driver, as well as a description of the car, location of the incident, and time. This information will be passed on to the police department who will then deal with the issue.
"We work with all the police in the area, they follow through with our reports, and we are very happy with that relationship," Gawron said. "Drivers should just be mindful of student safety and not in a hurry."