School bus violations are on the rise again in Maryland. A recent survey sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education revealed that drivers continue to ignore the stop arms on school busses at an alarming rate.
Stop arms swing out from a bus and lights flash whenever it is making an on-roadway student pick-up.
According to the survey, a total of 3,505 violations of school bus stop arms were recorded on a single day last spring in Maryland. This is over 100 violations more than the 3,392 violations recorded last year, but remains sharply lower than the rate found in the initial survey in 2011, when more than 7,000 violations were recorded.
“Maryland schools are beginning to open, and all drivers must focus on the safety of our students. It is illegal to pass a bus with its stop arm extended and its lights flashing,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery. “While progress has been made since our bus drivers first launched this survey four years ago, more work must be done. There is nothing more precious than our children.”
MSDE coordinated the survey in April along with school transportation directors in all 24 school systems. It is considered a snapshot of illegal activity on the roads. Seventy-two percent of Maryland school bus drivers took part in the survey.
Violations declined between 2011 and 2013 before increasing this year. Bus drivers witnessed 7,011 violations in 2011, a number that fell to 3,392 in 2013. School systems and bus drivers have been raising awareness about stop arm violations for the past four years.
Large systems with more buses and bus routes noted the most violators. Montgomery County school bus drivers tallied 893 drivers ignoring the stop arm — but that was down from 1,078 the previous year. Violations in Baltimore City went from 59 to 428. Prince George’s County increased from 599 to 669, and Anne Arundel County jumped from 338 to 375. Baltimore, Harford and Howard Counties all saw declines. Drivers in five small counties — Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Somerset and Talbot — did not find a violation.
The survey was undertaken at the request of a number of members of the Maryland General Assembly, which has been monitoring school bus safety. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services is coordinating surveys of this type in all 50 States.