New tool needed to ensure school bus safety

Legislation would help communities combat drivers who ignore 'stop-arms'

EVERY MORNING and afternoon in Boston, you’ll see children, families and caretakers running to and from yellow school buses — and as the mayor and police commissioner of Boston, there is no higher responsibility than ensuring our students have the safest transportation to and from school. That’s why this legislative session, we put forth important legislation with our partners that will enable the use of technology to capture drivers that pass through stop signs when the stop-arm on a school bus is deployed.

To ensure our children can get on and off the bus safely, we need a new technology tool for law enforcement agencies. Under no circumstance should our children ever be placed in danger because a driver decided to drive around a school bus that has the stop-arm deployed. Not only is this move reckless, but the stop-arm is necessary to allow students to safely cross the street.

All 50 states have laws making it illegal for motorists to ignore stop-arms and red flashing lights on school buses. However, Boston is limited in how we’re able to enforce this important safety standard. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services estimates that 14 million stop-arm violations occur during an average 180-day school year. We need to do more to make sure drivers are abiding by the law, because our young people’s safety depends on it.

Meet the Author

Meet the Author

William Gross

Commissioner, Boston Police Department
The legislation we have proposed, which will be the subject of a hearing on Wednesday of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation, would allow cities and towns to contract with vendors that will provide video and photo images of a violator’s license plate to the local police department for review. The cameras would become active only as the stop-arm is deployed, to monitor what is happening in the area surrounding the bus. Fines for a failure to stop for a school bus would be the same whether written on scene by a police officer or captured by a school bus violation detection monitoring system.

Boston Public Schools provide yellow bus service to 30,000 students on more than 625 school buses, covering 45,000 miles per day. Every one of these young people has the right to feel safe, not only while in school, but also when arriving and departing school. We believe the enforcement mechanism in S.2045 and H.2971 is a vitally important component to this effort.

Martin Walsh is mayor of Boston. William Gross is commissioner of the Boston Police Department.