The Highland Central School District (HCSD) is piloting an extended “stop arm” safety device on one of its school buses. The device, which is attached to the vehicle’s original stop sign, extends six feet into the oncoming traffic lane. It’s hoped that the arm will act as an additional visual deterrent to drivers who ignore the flashing red lights on the school bus.
HCSD is the first school district in Ulster County to install this safety tool, which is designed for bus routes with heavy traffic, high speed limits or frequent encounters with drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses. In Highland’s case, the arm was installed for routes with stops on Route 299, 9W and 44/55.
Christine Sorbello, a HCSD driver for more than 18 years, is eager to pilot the safety feature on her designated bus. She says that she has at least one car a week ignore her vehicle’s flashing red lights at a bus stop. “I consider all kids to be my own kids, and would be devastated if any of them got hurt,” she said.
At Dover Union Free School District, the installation of these arms brought an 89% reduction on passing motorists said Nathanael Spence from Bus Safety Solutions, the installers of the safety arm. Training is easy, he added, Highland drivers that want to try out the device will only need verbal instructions. Although Sorbello will be the primary driver of the bus with the safety arm for now, any driver with safety concerns who would like to try the device will be able to test drive it. If the team feels the tool enhances safety, additional devices, which are eligible for State Aid reimbursement, may be proposed.
Highland Transportation Director Cathy Mekulik is excited about the partnership with Bus Safety Solutions. “Our main job in the transportation department is to keep students safe at all times,” she said. “In addition to the importance of our students’ safety, we want to increase awareness of bus stop safety in the community.”