Anything to get motorists’ attention, extended stop arms have become the latest fashion when trying to halt illegal passing incidents, with one Virginia school district that has piloted the equipment citing a reduction in incidents by 89 percent.
The Albemarle County Public Schools in Charlottesville, Virginia, released a study on the Extended Stop Arm, “New School Bus Safety Pilot Program Reduces Number of Times Motorists Violate Safety Laws by 89 Present.” The release stated that in 2017 the district installed the Extended Stop Arm on school buses as part of a pilot program. That year, illegal passing incidents were reduced by more than 50 percent.
“The extended stop arms in the first pilot measured six feet when deployed, compared to the one-foot deployment standard on most school buses,” the district reported in the study. “They proved to be more instantly visible to motorists, who not only stopped more often when a school bus was loading or unloading school children but also stopped further from the bus.”
Transportation Director Jim Foley said the first pilot was conducted over a 15-day period. Another study was conducted a year later, in which the deployment time of the Extended Stop Arm was sped up from seven seconds to four seconds by changing the actuator from a mechanically operated cylinder to a pneumatic cylinder. The length of the arms was also reduced from six feet to four feet to prevent the stop arms from striking vehicles in adjoining lanes.
The district used three routes for the pilot program, two of which had a history of high illegal passing incidences. Albemarle County Public Schools found that on one of the routes, without the Extended Stop Arm, 15 violations were recorded between May 7 and May 18, 2018. On that same route, with the Extended Stop Arm, no violations occurred between May 21 and June 5 that same year.
Overall, across all three test routes, Albemarle County Public Schools reported an 89 percent reduction in the number of violations when utilizing the Extended Stop Arm. The Virginia Department of Education is reportedly reviewing the results and considering whether or not to authorize all school divisions in Virginia to institute similar programs in their areas.
In addition to the Commonwealth of Virginia, several other states and countries are actively piloting the product or have the product on an extended pilot program. These include Arizona, Canada, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, St. Thomas, Texas, and Virginia.
The Extended Stop Arm is now installed on over 1,000 school buses, across 96 school districts nationwide. It is also currently approved in 12 states including Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Created by Bus Safety Solutions, the patent-product is an extension of the federally mandated, driver’s-side stop sign that works in conjunction with the existing bus stop-arm. However, it extends into the second lane of traffic.
Scott Geyer, vice president of Bus Safety Solutions, said he is happy to see the product in states and school districts across the U.S., as well as in Canada and on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. “It is exciting to see that so many school districts have taken the opportunity to end stop-arm violations,” he said.
Founder and inventor Robert Geyer created the stop arm in response to the death of a church friend’s 11-year-old son during a stop-arm violation. “We knew something had to be done to prevent kids from being injured and killed in senseless stop-arm violations,” he said. “By placing the arm directly in front of the driver’s vision, they are much more likely to stop. It is sad that many drivers seem to care more about their car than they do someone else’s kid.”
The product, which is designed to work with any model school bus, meets all federal specifications for a school bus stop-arm as outlined in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 131. “Our Extended Stop Arms meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Standards for pedestrian safety devices due to the standards not specifying a maximum length,” Scott Geyer explained. “Our product meets every letter of the law and is a completely legal stop arm meeting approval by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Chief Counsel.”
According to the Bus Safety Solutions website, the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Indiana Attorney General and North Carolina Department of Justice have determined that it is illegal for any other vehicle to occupy the area the Extended Stop Arm extends into. Therefore, the offending motorist is liable for any damages to the sign or bus as well as their own vehicle.