According to First Student (the company handling Helena’s school bus transportation), from September 2019 - March 2020, there were over 100 stop-arm violations reported in the Helena School District.
A stop-arm violation is when a vehicle passes or ignores the school bus lights on the road. The Location Safety Manager at First Student says the violation occurs too often.
"We wanted to get the word out about stop-arm violations. So, the safety of our kids, when we're loading and unloading our children,” says Daniel Redford, the Location Safety Manager for First Student. “We have a statistic that shows so many people that are running our red lights when we are out there."
According to a survey by the National Association of State Directors Pupil Transportation Services, 27% of school bus drivers within 39 states reported almost 100,000 stop-arm violations in a single day. That big amount translates to even a small community like Helena, where over 100 violations occurred within a 7-month period.
"It is a huge deal per our capita and per our population,” says Redford. “You're probably looking at half a million stop-arm violations in that same amount of period in a school district the size of Los Angeles."
So, what can Helena and the surrounding communities do?
"If you come along and the yellow lights are flashing on a school bus, you need to prepare to stop and be prepared for the school bus to activate their red stop lights,” says Redford. “When the red stop lights are deployed, then you need to be stopping 100 feet in front of the bus and 100 feet behind the bus and be prepared for children either crossing the road or crossing from the bus side of the road to get onto the bus. So, this is why, when people aren't paying attention to that, we get children that end up getting hit."
A stop-arm violation can cost you a $500 fine.
Buses are equipped with cameras to monitor cars and children around the bus. Stop arm violations are sent to law enforcement on a monthly basis.