opened this fall, student safety was a high priority for Simsbury Public
Schools administrators. They considered it important to assess student safety not
only in school but on the way to school as well. Through a unique grant
opportunity from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the district implemented
a pilot program that returned some very surprising results—much more than just
a passing grade in school bus safety.
To perform an analysis of Simsbury schools’ bus routes, the district engaged the services of REDFLEX Traffic Systems, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, which uses a system called Student Guardian™ to monitor and deter drivers who illegally pass school buses, violations that risk the safety of schoolchildren. The company installs video cameras on the front and rear driver’s side of a school bus, monitoring traffic while the stop arm and amber lights of the bus are displayed. The cameras capture data for vehicles that pass buses while loading or unloading children. Following a comprehensive review process, secure evidence packages are submitted to local law enforcement to determine whether a citation is warranted. Upon approval by law enforcement, a citation, which in Connecticut could potentially accompany as much as a $450 fine, would then be mailed to the violator.
For Simsbury’s pilot program, seven buses were deployed with the cameras, and data was collected for one to three weeks between September and November 2013. All kinds of traffic road conditions and types of weather were included in the route analysis—and the findings were that with 3,100 bus stops, there were only two potential violations.
Sue Lemke, Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Human Resource Development, summed up the district’s reaction to the news. “We were pleased to find that our community is so mindful of the importance of driving carefully around school buses. We are satisfied with the conclusions from this route analysis, and we consider it great news that we don’t need to continue with the program.”
Lemke noted that this pilot was a great opportunity to work collaboratively with the Simsbury police department, which contributed expertise and resources that were instrumental to the success of the project.
Added Lemke, “We owe a big thank you to the Simsbury community, which obviously cares as much as we do about the safety of our students.”