Over a fifth of the nation’s school bus drivers reported nearly 78,000 incidents of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses during one-day counts earlier this year, equating to 14 million violations over a 180-day school year.
The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services has sponsored the voluntary survey each year since 2011. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported that 104,469 bus drivers observed 77,972 illegal passing incidents on the various survey dates, the majority of which were held this spring.
Half of the incidents occurred during afternoon routes, with slightly less (46.3 percent) occurring in the morning. The remaining 3.6 percent were recorded during mid-afternoon routes.
Most illegal passes occurred when oncoming traffic overtook the bus (59 percent). State laws dictate that all lanes of traffic must stop when a school bus deploys its federally mandated stop arm and flashing red lights to load or unload students, except for oncoming traffic that is separated from the school bus’ lane by a physical median.
While only 1,928 of the total illegal passes occurred on the right side of the bus, such a maneuver is especially dangerous for students because that is where the loading and unloading doors are.
All published data has remained consistent throughout all seven years of the survey project.
“The numbers, while not a surprise to those who drive and oversee the nation's school buses, point to an unacceptable number of dangerous driving practices by some of America's motorists,” said Diana Hollander, president of NASDPTS and the state director of student transportation at the Nevada Department of Education. “We all share the responsibility to do whatever we can to eliminate this threat to the students riding our school buses.”
The illegal passing survey led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to form a partnership in December with NASDPTS, the National Association for Pupil Transportation and the National School Transportation Association to develop a nationwide public awareness campaign explaining the dangers of not stopping for school buses.