Visalia motorists lead the nation in ignoring school bus stop crossings

Visalia Unified partners with technology company BusPatrol in a study tracking school bus stop violations

VISALIA – The results of a pilot program launched by Visalia Unified to track how often cars illegally pass school buses were announced on March 31, and the city had one of the highest violation rates recorded in the country. 

VUSD partnered with safety technology company BusPatrol in November to equip nine school buses with stop-arm cameras that track cars illegally passing stopped buses. Stop arms are the stop signs which extend from the side of the bus with flashing red lights to notify motorists to stop and allow children to cross the street while the school bus is stopped. From November 2021 to February 2022, the cameras recorded 1,196 violations. This translates to 3.1 stop-arm violations per bus per day, one of the highest violation rates captured in BusPatrol pilots being conducted across the country, according to BusPatrol.

Current legislation prevents law enforcement from citing violations using stop-arm cameras, despite violators breaking state laws requiring them to stop for school buses with stop-arms extended and red lights flashing. However, a proposed bill might change that. 

Assembly Bill 2084, introduced by assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer in February, would allow school districts to use technology like the cameras provided by BusPatrol to assist law enforcement in identifying drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses. The bill would require law enforcement

to review the information, determine if a violation occurred and issue a citation if necessary. It would also require drivers to stop for buses from the opposite side of a multiple-lane highway, which is currently not required under existing law. 

According to data from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), there are more than 17 million stop-arm violations in the US each year. A school bus safety study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that children are most at risk as they are approaching and leaving the bus, and this is largely due to drivers ignoring school bus stop-arms.

Some high violation areas in Visalia identified by BusPatrol, in no order, are W Kimball Avenue at West Street, W Cameron Avenue between Court Street and Mooney Boulevard, and Akers Street near Caldwell Avenue. A number of violations also occurred on the stretch of Mooney Boulevard between W Riggin Avenue and Houston Avenue.

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