Iowa School Bus Safety Study Released
January 4th, 2013 by Ric Hanson
The Iowa departments of Transportation and Education, Friday (today) announced the release of the School Bus Safety Study to the Iowa legislature, as required by Senate File 2218, “Kadyn’s Law.” In response to the findings, Steve Gent, director of the Iowa DOT’s Office of Traffic and Safety said “The study conducted by researchers at Iowa State University and The University of Iowa evaluated school bus safety measures as required by the legislature. This report states that parents should be encouraged to have their children ride the bus to and from school because buses are one of the safest forms of transportation available. Yet, the safety of our children is still a real concern, primarily due to vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses.”
Max Christensen, state director of school transportation with the Iowa Department of Education, said “Ensuring the safety of Iowa’s school children is a top priority for this department and all of Iowa schools and districts. Taking actions at the local level, such as evaluating the feasibility of home-side loading/unloading of students, and working with area law enforcement agencies, is essential.” The study addressed three specific safety elements:
Use of cameras mounted on school buses to enhance the safety of children riding the buses and aid in enforcement of motor vehicle laws pertaining to stop-arm violations.
Feasibility of requiring school children to be picked up and dropped off on the side of the road on which their home is located.
Inclusion of school bus safety as a priority in driver training curriculum.
Some of the key findings of the study were:
Twenty Iowa school districts confirmed they are currently using stop-arm cameras as a deterrent.
Stop-arm cameras do aid in the enforcement of motor vehicle laws and enhance safety if there is an effective and sustainable process to turn a camera image into a traffic citation and ultimately a court conviction.
The present method of identifying stop-arm violators captured on school bus cameras and subsequent issuance of citations by law enforcement agencies is a laborious task for all parties involved.
Although Kadyn’s Law imposes a mandatory minimum fine of $250 for the first offense, records show that 65 percent of fines imposed between Aug. 15 and Oct. 31, 2012, were less than the minimum. As with any new law, enhanced awareness within the judicial system of the changes in the Iowa Code resulting from Kadyn’s Law should result in an increased alignment of convictions and sentencing to the present Iowa Code provisions.
School districts should continue to be encouraged to consider home-side loading as a matter of best practice and discretion; but researchers stopped short of recommending this be a specific requirement.
As a best practice, inclusion of illustrations in driver training curriculum may improve driver comprehension of school bus stop requirements.
The study also mentioned that installation of a second stop sign at the rear of the school bus is a low-cost traffic control solution that enhances safety by increasing the visibility of the stop sign for vehicles approaching from the rear, thus preventing some motorists from overtaking a school bus when children are loading or unloading. A second stop sign is an option already available to Iowa school districts and is presently being exercised by some.
The study, sponsored by the Iowa DOT and Federal Highway Administration, was co-authored by Neal Hawkins, principle investigator and director, Center for Transportation Research and Education at Iowa State University; Shauna Hallmark, co-principle investigator and interim director, Institute for Transportation, Iowa State University; Dr. Susan Chrysler, co-principle investigator and director of research, The National Advanced Driving Simulator, University of Iowa; Dr. Dan McGehee, research scientist and director, Human Factors and Vehicle Safety Research Program, Public Policy Center, The University of Iowa; and graduate students Elizabeth O’Neal and Roderick Hoover of the National Advanced Driving Simulator at The University of Iowa.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety also played a key role in the study by sharing their valuable insights into the enforcement and educational aspects of this issue.
The report is available at: http://www.iowadot.gov/schoolbus/default.html
(Iowa DOT Press Release)