State by State Variation in Crossing Procedures: Part 6 : Conclusions

If nothing else is clear from the exhaustive evidence presented in the six previous installments, it is that the state-to-state variation in crossing procedures represents a mind–boggling labyrinth of confusion to motorists. That this confusion leads to crossing mayhem should be understandable. Frankly, to expect motorists to absorb, much less respond to, the nuances of each state’s crossing policies and procedures is neither fair nor reasonable.

In stating this, I am not remotely condoning or excusing pass bys. Yet the author of the study from which I obtained much of this information is far more sympathetic toward such motorists than I am. Paraphrasing him:

  • Most violations of passing stopped school buses are due to bad laws with bad traffic engineering and public distrust. Children in other countries are better educated to be more careful on the roads rather than getting the false sense of security that requiring traffic to stop for their crossing provides.
  • Overuse of the flashing lights decreases public respect for them and gives children the false sense that they are magically protected in the roadway, and this may increase the dangers due to impatient or confused motorists.
  • Drivers passing stopped school buses are not always reckless or aggressive. If the road is wide, or its speed limit high, motorists may not expect to encounter a stopped school bus. Many drivers who have passed stopped school buses illegally may have actually acted reasonably. Crossing incidents are frequently the fault of such things as regulations, crossing practices or the location of the school bus stop itself, and not the fault of the motorists.

To those of us who have spent year or decades trying to cope with the challenges of providing safe and secure pupil transportation, these comments may seem offensive. Frankly, I think many of them are exaggerated, marginally unreasonable, and simply reflect the sensibilities of someone "outside" our community. But at the same time, there is also a considerable amount of truth embedded in these comments, and the seemingly uncontrollable volume of pass-bys appears to substantiate it.

While there is considerable truth in much of what the study cited claims, I also refuse to accept the inevitability of failure it implies, just as I refuse to excuse our community from pretending that the volume of mayhem that our failures have generated do not exist. My personal and professional experiences have convinced me beyond any reasonable doubt that they clearly do exist, and further, that most of the hundreds or thousands of yearly crossing-related fatalities and serious injuries are largely the fault of the members of our community – not the fault of the students or the mostly third-party motorists who regularly run them down.

Publications: School Transportation News.