Beresford schools concerned about stop arm violations

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 9:56 PM CDT
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BERESFORD, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - With the school year fully underway, school officials in Beresford are raising concerns over safety around buses.

Student safety is the top priority of school districts and bus companies everywhere. One of the things that they can’t control is how other drivers act on the road, a problem they’ve encountered in the last few weeks.

The Beresford School District is doing what it can to prevent stop arm violations on the roads. A stop arm violation is when a school bus has its red lights flashing, meaning the doors are open and the stop arm is out, but a driver decides they can’t wait. In contrast, when a school bus has its amber lights flashing, it means the bus is about to stop, but passing is allowed.

Jared Olson, the district’s business manager, is worried about the consequences of a violation impacting the children getting off the bus.

“As a former high school math teacher, I always did a unit on rate and time with my students,” Olson explained. “If you go around a school bus, you’re really saving seconds. It’s just not worth it for twenty or thirty or forty seconds of savings to risk a child’s life or injury to a child.”

Within the first nine days of school, bus drivers reported two stop arm violations. That might not sound like much, but it means that their district is on pace for 38 violations in the school year.

Issues with stop arm violations tend to happen more frequently on rural highways. Olson said that younger children tend to excitedly run on and off the bus quickly without looking both ways to cross the street. Most of the time a young child is so excited to get home that they forget to look.

“One of the opportunities we have is to transport students out in the country and there’s always a risk when they do exit and enter back and forth on and off of the bus. That is the greatest opportunity for injury to a child. Our drivers can advise students to be careful, but it’s always very difficult for young children,” Olson explained.

Beresford has put in a few reactive measures, like installing dash cams on the inside and cameras on the side of their buses to catch violators. Their next goal is to stop it from happening in the first place.

“Obviously, it was a number that was way too unacceptable. We do know that is a reactionary measure, but we know we can’t fix this onesie twosie with everyone that we catch on our cameras,” Olson said.

Olson added that the cameras on the buses provide higher-quality video picture than cameras other companies have used years ago. Another feature of the cameras is the ability for drivers to flag an incident with a button on their dashboard while driving in order to save the video and look back at it later rather than trying to remember details of a car in real time. The school district works closely with law enforcement and sends footage recorded as well as any other helpful information.

Their mission now is to bring more preventive measures and continue to educate the public to help keep kids safe.

“Very similar to what we ask people to do in the fall, especially when harvest is upon us and farmers have their big equipment out on the road. We ask drivers to let them do their jobs. Give them space. Let them get their rigs from one field to the next,” Olson said. “We’re asking the same of people with the buses. Let our bus drivers do their job. Let them safely transport kids.”

Other districts and bus companies in the region will be working on more awareness efforts in October for America’s Safe Schools Week.