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New Federal Best Practice Guide for Selecting School Bus Stops Released

Just in time for the school year to begin, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a new guide for best practices for safer routing and selection of school bus stops. The guide was compiled with assistance from several different student transportation organizations such as the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), National Science Teacher Association (NSTA), Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, and the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

According to the new “Selecting School Bus Stop Locations: A Guide for School Transportation Professionals,” there are several school bus stop characteristics that should be considered such as;

  • street-side characteristics like existence of sidewalks, driveways, railroad tracks, sharp curves, hills, trees and vegetation;

  • visibility during sunrise and sunset during pick up or drop off at the stops;

  • the need to minimize left turns, backing up, and three point turns at or near stops and along the routes;

  • off-street characteristics such as adequate lighting, sufficient space for students to wait, number of students at the stop;

  • weather protection or related issues (i.e. prone to snow drifts);

  • commercial business areas and parks.

Not only do these characteristics apply to the stop itself but also to the students’ route between home and the stop. These types of characteristics may have both benefits and draw backs so they must be considered carefully.

While most states and districts have an appeal process for addressing parent and/or community concerns related to school bus stops, the process varies greatly and operator concerns may not always win.  Recently in North Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh, parents and students spoke out against a proposed change in their regular bus stop aimed at increasing route safety.  The Director of Finance and Operations for the district, referred to the federal recommendations to minimize and/or eliminate three point turns and backing up by school buses.  In spite of strong recommendations from respected organizations, the school board sided with vocal parents and did not accept the director’s recommendation to move any of the six stops. 

What does this mean for School Bus Operators?

The new federal guidelines provide advice and recommendations that should be considered when planning and assessing school bus routes and stops. The resources you rely on in selecting stops and routes should be documented to show adherence to best practices and to provide a defense if accidents happen, especially if routes and stops are set against your recommendations. Your safety experience as an operator is a good defense made stronger by documented use of guidance like the new “Selecting School Bus Stop Locations: A Guide for School Transportation Professionals."

 

For information about this topic contact RC Kelly Law Associates at
215-896-3846 or via e-mail at
help@rckelly.com

 



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