Flashers, Signals and Recognition: Part 4

Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series examined the limitations of our present 8-way flasher system (for those students whose buses are lucky enough to possess them). In this final installment, we will examine the financial and institutional issues associated with the recommendation for a 12-way flasher system.

Costs and Expectations

I am fully aware that a large number of school buses in many states do not yet contain even amber flashers (much less stop arms), and cash-strapped school districts are not about to spend even more money for equipment that is not mandated. Yet some of the largest national contractors — operating in highly competitive environments — consider crossing equipment important enough to operate fleets containing only eight-way systems supplemented by stop arms and crossing control guards on every single bus in their nationwide fleets. Of course, the continued existence of four-way flashers on buses in states with strong immunity for public agencies, as well as a lot of liability ruses that trade off safety for a reduction in exposure (see Baltimore) suggest clearly what matters most in much of this country – which this past year’s current events have certainly made clear.

Finally in pure cost terms, adding a green light – when 12-way-systems are at the production level and tens of thousands of them sold a year – will involve a pittance of increased costs compared to the cost of most other safety devices that have been added to buses for decades, in this case, four bulbs, fixtures, slightly longer mounting brackets, and some simple changes in wiring.

Virtuosity and Opportunity

Forget the home mortgage and banking crises. I began seeing signs of a collapsing America in the Early 80s by observing scores of serious technical errors, omissions and indifference in my own parts of the passenger transportation field, as well as in others that crossed my path as a consumer and a citizen. The era when products had to work before reaching the market, when stores willingly refunded your money, and when live Earthlings actually answered commercial or institutional telephones is long gone. The thousands of failures and annoyances that we have simply grown to accept eventually caught up with us. After countless episodes of such corruption and indifference, the failure to regulate banks or their rating agencies was simply a dramatic blip along a long, slippery slope which most of us spent in deep slumber.

I cannot be accused of being unrealistic of naïve. Sweden’s “Vision Zero” has as its goal to achieve zero pedestrian accidents, nationwide, by the year 2020. Zero! They are already close. This accomplishment is not an endorsement of socialism (which Sweden does not remotely have). It is an endorsement of the commitment to responsibility and virtuosity. By comparison, the tens of thousands of pedestrians killed or seriously injured in vehicle-pedestrian accidents in this country is not merely a tragedy. It is an embarrassment.

While over time, if 12-way flashers save a few thousand children from death or serious injury, this by itself will not make a noticeable dent in our nation’s array of problems – not that preventing the death of a few thousand children is unworthy as a goal on its own. But the installation of genuine and complete moving traffic signals on school buses will point our community in the direction of competence and virtuosity. By installing 12-way flashers, we can strive to make our crossing buses and their moving traffic signals operate the way they must in order to achieve their intended purpose. If we fail to make noticeable improvements of which we can boast, we risk experiencing a thinning of our national fleet and its riders. After all, the National Academy of Science study found transit buses just as safe as school buses for home-to-school travel. And while all but two countries transport their schoolchildren on regular transit buses and motorcoaches, many experience far fewer crossing-related fatalities and serious injuries than we do. Such improvement are not beyond our reach, as radical recent improvements in the transit and motorcoach sectors have demonstrated (see November, 2009 issue of National Bus Trader).

“Do Nothing, Go Nowhere.” Maybe that should be our motto. Unfortunately, in a sector of the overall passenger transportation community where I myself largely help mop up the mess, my perspective may be a bit different from others within the pupil transportation community. But I am convinced that this magnitude of slaughter can be dramatically reduced with the installation of the equipment I am recommending.Since far more schoolchildren are killed or seriously injured while outside the bus, equipping schoolbuses with a genuine and complete set of crossing signals will reduce this mayhem significantly.

Publications: School Transportation News.