The marriage of AI-enabled, predictive technology and stop arm camera ticketing systems: delivering real-world safety to students despite growing driver distraction.
The pandemic didn’t bring much in the way of good, with one exception being a dramatic drop in illegal school bus passing. With the pandemic now firmly in our rear view, so are those better-looking violation numbers.
Illegal school bus passes have reached epidemic levels, according to Pat McManamon, President of NASDPTS.1 The proof that backs this statement up – the 10th NASDPTS survey on illegal passing, which indicates the nation would have experienced more than 41.8 million violations in both 2019 and 2022 inside a 180-day school year.2
The good news is the industry is starting to see very capable and innovative technologies to counter the increasing risk.
Safe Fleet has developed two technologies that when paired together bring an unmatched level of safety to students outside the bus. These are:
The Predictive Stop Arm™ (PSA). This game-changer uses radar and predictive analytics to scan 3 lanes/1,000 ft in both directions to determine if a vehicle will stop in time. If not, the PSA issues a spoken-word alert to the students directly, telling them to “stop, get back.” This gives students a precious 3-4 seconds to “step back” from risk.
Stop Arm Cameras. This system captures HD video of illegal passbys as they occur, assisting law enforcement officers with violation ticketing and making drivers more accountable for their actions.
Together, these systems help enhance school bus and student visibility, proactively engage students with their own safety, and make it easier to enforce the law.
We talked to two Florida School Districts to get their impressions on this life-saving technology pairing. Here’s what they had to say.
Flagler District Transportation Director Dr. Don Rowls, views his school district’s responsibility of protecting students under the umbrella of a pledge to students and community members alike. “We have a golden obligation to transport students safely. Implementing these technologies is going to help us improve their safety and make sure they have a valued experience.”
The Flagler School District is a Safe Fleet (formerly Seon) customer of over 12 years. Citing great after-sale customer service, Rowls is happy with his choice of supplier and technology. He gains peace-of-mind forgoing a bolt-on-approach in favor of using two technologies that are designed to work together for the best student safety outside the bus, while tying into his existing hardware and reducing the overall learning curves.
“I’m an advocate for technology,” says Rowls. “Moving forward with the school bus industry, I’m always looking ahead for technology that continues to enhance student safety. The majority of the world is reactive rather than proactive. Being reactive typically costs you. If we have the opportunity to mitigate risk or enhance safety – let’s take that leap. We won’t mitigate all the risk, but we will make the environment for our students safer, and in doing so, we give parents, drivers and students peace-of-mind.”
Alfredo Escalera, Fleet Supervisor for the Seminole County Public Schools in Florida also touts customer service as a key reason behind their 15-year relationship with Safe Fleet.
Like Flagler, Seminole had no motivating incident behind their decision to implement the PSA and Stop Arm Camera solutions. Both districts hear the stories and see the footage of the frequent near misses and the tragedy that unfolds with any student strike. Both districts actively seek out technologies to help reduce the risk of any such event and better protect their students.
Alfredo adds, “We see the increasing violations – blatant distractions. So, you see this and think one day something is going to happen. But this technology, it will help that one kid who would have been hurt by someone trying to avoid the bus. The more technology we add to the bus, the better.”
What about the kids? What do they think about their technically advanced school buses? “They’re pretty excited,’ says Escalera. The alert from the PSA, when issued, is loud and booming. The kids feel as though they are being protected by a Transformer®.”
Kids are kids after all, but this is actually great news. When students connect with technology like this and identify with the fact it’s there to protect them like a Transformer, they are more likely to pay attention when the system notifies them risk is present.
Escalera points out, “people are going to see these added safety features and parents are going to say, well, why didn’t we have this a long time ago?” It’s going to be a no-brainer at that point. The systems you could say would be life savers. It only makes sense to have these safety features on-board.”
IMPORTANT NOTICE: No system can prevent all incidents. Inattentive drivers, weather, erratic student behavior, and other factors can inhibit detection and overall system performance. Drivers must always keep proper lookout.
Lori Jetha is Vice President, Marketing,, for Safe Fleet. Visit www.safefleet.net for more information.