The state departments of transportation and education released a report on school bus safety Friday in the wake of changes to Iowa law designed to beef up the penalties for illegally passing a stopped school bus.
The Department of Education’s state director of school transportation, Max Christensen, says the report has a lot of good information in it, and some things that they did not know.
“I think the biggest surprise to us was when we looked at the home side loading, unloading possible requirement. A lot of us thought that well that would probably if anything at most double the expenses, double the cost of that transportation,” Christensen says. “But when we actually put it into an honest to goodness routing situation, it actually quadrupled the cost.”
The report recommended that school districts continue working to only load and unload students on the same side of the street as their homes, but did not make it a required recommendation. Christensen says there are various factors that make it more costly to carry off.
“Kids are only by law allowed to be on the school bus 60 minutes. And when you are having to basically back-track on every street or road to pick up kids on either side of the street or road, then that 60-minute factor comes into play,” according Christensen.
“And when that happens, we actually have to add more buses, more routes, more drivers, and that’s where the increased cost actually came into affect.” The report recommended districts look at cameras on stop signs and an additional stop sign at the back of the bus.
Christensen says the most important thing he sees is the need to do more education of drivers on how to react around school buses.
He says things like cameras on the school buses only catch people after the fact when the kids are already in danger.
“What we would really like to see is for it to not get to that point. I mean we need to educate the other motorists so they know what to do so we don’t actually get to that point where we are actually putting those kids in danger,” Christensen says. The report suggests more emphasis on school bus safety in driver education classes.
The new “Kaydn’s Law” on bus safety was named after seven-year-old Kadyn Halverson of Kensett who was struck and killed on May 10th of 2011 as she attempted to get on a school bus.