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September Brings Focus on School Bus Safety

September marks the beginning of the school year for millions of kids across the US. It’s a time of year that brings major changes—not just to the lives of children and families, but also shifting traffic patterns that put more vehicles on the road at drop-off and pick-up times, especially in school-adjacent neighborhoods and along school bus routes. 

Adding buses to roads that may already be heavily traveled can pose a safety risk. Since school buses stop frequently along their routes, drivers in a hurry are sometimes tempted to go around stopped buses—a particularly dangerous act, especially for the schoolchildren using these buses. A recent survey conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) indicates there may be more than 41.8 million violations of this kind per year nationwide. This video from “Inside Edition” illustrates some of the dangerous scenarios that play out when impatient drivers break the law. Because it’s so risky, many states impose substantial penalties for drivers caught in the act, including fees in the thousands of dollars, “points” added to the driver’s record, possible license suspension, and even jail time. But without enforcement, these penalties may not deter the unsafe behavior.

But there are promising enforcement solutions that can protect kids getting on or off school buses along their routes. We’re excited about our recently announced partnership with Hayden AI to provide school bus “stop arm” enforcement. This article in Streetsblog USA provides a great overview of the current state of autonomous enforcement technology nationwide. For example:

  • While passing a school bus with its stop arm extended is illegal in all 50 states, only half have explicitly established the legality of stop-arm cameras for enforcement, and only half of those have implemented the technology—a missed opportunity to deter this dangerous behavior.
  • The number of fatalities each year resulting from these violations is not high, but as Charles Territo of Hayden AI puts it, “It makes no sense to wait until there’s a tragedy to enforce an existing law. Just because tragedies haven’t occurred in a specific jurisdiction doesn’t mean they won’t.”

The enforcement solution from Hayden AI and Conduent Transportation will combine artificial intelligence and computer vision, using mobile cameras mounted on bus exteriors that activate during the crucial period when the stop arm is extended and flashing lights warn drivers that passing is not allowed. The solution builds on our 25 years of relevant experience in transportation—we currently support one out of every four U.S. state and local automated enforcement programs, including those implemented to monitor speed and red-light traffic regulations. More information about the partnership and solution is available here.