SHELBYVILLE — Indiana school districts are pushing to improve safety for thousands of kids that ride a school bus. Attorney General Curtis Hill has given districts the OK to add a stop arm up to six feet long to get drivers' attention, and one school transportation official would like to see that happen.
School buses are already one of the biggest and brightest vehicles on the road, but many school bus drivers will tell you some times it seems as if the big yellow bus is invisible.
"It really doesn't seem to matter that it's a bright yellow vehicle with LED lights and flashing lights," Katrina Falk, assistant transportation director for Shelby Eastern School, said. "We've proven time and time again; unfortunately, it's not visible."
Falk is a longtime school bus driver, and she takes pride in her buses. Making sure every bus she runs is safe and in immaculate shape — both inside and out.
"We have dual stop arms on all of our newer buses with strobing LED lights; we have full reflective tape packages; strobe lights that stay on in the morning," Falk said. "We are doing everything we can to make this vehicle as visible as possible."
Despite how clean, shiny, and well-lit her buses are, it's not always enough to stop cars and trucks from passing her school buses when the red lights are flashing, and the stop arm is out. That's why Falk was among the transportation directors to review a new extended stop-arm option now available for Indiana buses.
"I don't think you can ever make a school bus too visible," Falk said. "So, anything we can do in this danger zone and attract the attention of motorists, I'm all for it."
Right now, a school bus stop arm extends 18 inches from the bus, but the extended stop arm would reach across a lane of traffic roughly 4.5 to 6.5 feet from the bus.
"So they are made to be hit, so if they are hit, they shear off very easily in order to limit the amount of damage that's done to the actual bus," Falk said.
Parents say anything that keeps their child out of harm's way is a move they can get on board with.
The extended stop arm is made by Bus Safety Solutions and costs about $1,500 to install. The company says school districts in other states that have already started using it have seen a 55 percent to 85 percent reduction in stop-arm violations.