Earlier this year, NASDPTS called on all states to hold a one-day count of motorists who illegally blow past school buses stopped to load or unload students, one of the leading causes of student deaths around the school bus each year.
This week, the Indiana Department of Education said a study of 184 districts state-wide unovered more than 3,500 cases of motorists illegally passing the buses with stop arms activated and amber lights flashing. 6News in Indianapolis reported that the count was tied to the NASPDTS request.
The Indiana DOE estimates that nearly 630,000 motorists will illegally pass stopped school bus stop arms in a typical school year, and 10,600 of them are on the right side of the bus, where children are loading and unloading. Georgia, Virginia and Washington state all passed laws this year to allow school districts to equip video cameras on school bus stop arms or on the external body of the vehicle to catch these motorists. Washington state's law even went as far to require the one-day count each year, starting next May.
With school districts continuing to face an up-hill-battle as far as new bus purchases are concerned, a school district in Connecticut is turning to a familiar friend of late, state grant funds. New Canaan Public Schools will participate in the Connecticut Clean Fuel Program to help purchase a new hybrid diesel/electrict school bus. The bus retails at $145,000, which shows that, slowly but surely, the incremental cost of these alt-fuel vehicles is moving south. The grant will nearly get New Canaan half of the way there with an award of $63,000.
Of course, challenges in purchasing new buses and simply maintaining the current fleet are worsening under growing school district budget cuts. Last week, we reported that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recommended nearly $90 million in cuts to the state's transportation reimbursement program for school districts. A local superintendent said this week that the cuts will result in less routes and longer bus routes that escape the chopping block. And, in the end, the rural districts will be hit the hardest.
Finally this week, dozens of school bus drivers nationwide are preparing to head to Baltimore July 15 and 16 to compete in the International School Bus Driver Safety Competition hosted by NSTA. Ruth Foster and Tina Richardson of Rockaway Township Schools will represent New Jersey. Foster won the 40th annual New Jersey Transportation Professional's Safety Training and Applied Roadeo Skills Competitio (whew, now that's a mouthful), and Gina Palmieri also of Rockaway Township finished in fourth place.
Last year, Larry Hannon of Centennial School District in Warminster, Pa., won the conventional class and overall championship. It was Hannon's third win in a row and sixth overall dating back to 1980. Hannon would not win again until 2001, and then he took home first prize in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010.