A reflective mitt developed by a veteran New York state school bus driver to help students safely cross streets to and from bus stops is now being used by school districts in 30 states and in Canada.
Victoria Pierce DeCarlo has driven for the past 20 years for Lake Shore CSD in Angola, N.Y., near the eastern shore of Lake Erie, and made the mitt nearly two years ago. Like most school bus drivers, she worries about students crossing the street to and from bus stops. One particular intersection bothered her, a three-way intersection similar to a "T-Bone," she called it, on Herr Road at Steffi Drive.
"For some reason these students at this section could not see me at all," she recalled. "I had a bad feeling that something was going to happen and I needed to do something now! And indeed I did!"
And the "Steffi Crosser" was born. Pierce DeCarlo used a seam ripper to take apart old safety vests and construct a highly reflective glove that she wore on the back of her hand to signal to students when it was safe to cross. She said the reflective material can be clearly seen through the glare of school bus windshields or during early-morning or dusk hours.
By the third day of wearing the glove, Pierce DeCarlo said parents began asking questions and expressing their appreciation of her new invention. Her fellow drivers soon took notice and began ordering the Steffi. Now, all Lake Shore drivers now use it. Pierce DeCarlo made the first 225 gloves.
Since then, districts across New York state have been using the Steffi — 34 at this report, with another 200 districts awaiting approval to use the glove, Pierce DeCarlo said. Manufacturing is now performed by disabled U.S. veterans at plants in Dunkirk and Jamestown, N.Y. New York Bus sales is the distributor. The Steffi retails at $7.95 each.
Recently, Pierce DeCarlo made presentations at Grand Island CSD, where all drivers received the Steffi, and Kenmore-Tonawanda CSD after exhibiting the Steffi at the NYAPT Annual Conference this summer. Many drivers placed orders on the spot, she said, and others approached her with testimony about how much they and their students love the glove.
She has filled orders for districts from Alabama to Pennsylvania, Washington state to South Carolina, and she said state senators from New Jersey to Wyoming are evaluating the Steffi. State directors of student transportation in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada and Wyoming also have tehe Steffi.
Meanwhile, the New York Department of Transportation ordered the gloves, and Pierce DeCarlo said she has also sold the product to construction workers, parking log attendents, firefighters, police officers in New Hampshire and Maine, even skateboarders and joggers who want extra visibility on the road.
"It's really catching on. People are really appreciating it," she added.Pierce DeCarlo and the Steffi can be found at the NAPT Summit Trade Show held next month in Grand Rapids, Mich.