The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Labor, will run a national media campaign in an effort to inform drivers about “the dangers of illegally passing stopped school buses.” According to a news release by the agency, the campaign will run through the end of October.
As the news release explains, all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia legally require drivers to come to a stop when a stopped school bus has its “stop arm” extended. These laws are designed to protect students boarding or disembarking school buses. According to the NHTSA’s data, “there were 1.6 times more fatalities among pedestrians than occupants of school transportation vehicles” between 2010 and 2019. A 2019 survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, meanwhile, found that “130,963 school bus drivers reported that 95,319 vehicles passed their buses illegally on a single day,” amounting to at least 17 million illegal passes each school year.
The NHTSA’s paid media campaign, which includes social media and radio advertisements, is funded by resources allocated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In a statement about the campaign, NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said: “Passing a stopped school bus is against the law and could have fatal consequences. Nothing is worth the risk. Children’s lives are on the line – every driver needs to stop when a school-bus stop arm is extended.”
A sample fact sheet published by the NHTSA encourages drivers to obey all traffic signals and signs, including school bus stop arms. “From 2011 to 2020 there were 1,009 fatal school-transportation-related crashes, and 1,125 people of all ages were killed in those crashes,” it notes, “an average of 113 fatalities per year.” It advises parents and other caregivers to arrive at bus stops at least five minutes before the bus arrives, to stand clear of the edge of the road, and walk in front of the bus rather than behind it.