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Local school districts outline new features on school buses to keep students safe and parents at ease

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Posted at 10:30 AM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 10:30:06-04

EASTLAKE, Ohio — With many kids heading back to the classroom this week, school districts are doing what they can to ensure the kids are safe getting to and from school.

“I think the biggest challenges are or one of the fears is that people don’t think about is keeping kids safe until the bus gets there and they get on the bus safely,” said Willoughby-Eastlake superintendent Steve Thompson. “Some of our students may be new to riding a bus, some of our younger students. But many of our students might be after a different bus stop.”

With 90 total buses running 74 routes, it’s all hands-on deck to keep track of things. Buses are equipped with GPS tracking systems like “Zonar” to track a bus’s speed and location. They’re also equipped with fire suppression systems and automatic breaking features on newer models.

“If a driver is following too closely based on the speed and the proximity to them, it will slow the bus down. If it’s coming towards a fixed object it will put on the brakes totally for them,” said bus garage manager John Rinehart.

Each bus is also equipped with three cameras, giving a clear picture of everything that’s going inside and outside the bus: one in the front-facing the back, one in the back facing forward and one over the driver’s head that shoots out the window.

There’s also a camera mounted in the windshield called Drive Cam to evaluate a driver’s performance. The camera is triggered by a G-Force event and record 4 seconds prior to the event and 8 seconds after the event giving a 12-second clip.

The feature also comes with an on-demand record button to capture incidents on the fly.

“I think it protects the school; it protects the student. It protects the driver. I don’t know how many times there’s been a claim and we’ve been able to corroborate it or refute it based on the video evidence,” Rinehart said.

Even an app that’s available for parents allows them to track buses on routes to stay up to date on any delays.

“Let’s say there’s a traffic accident and the bus is caught behind traffic and the parent wants to know ‘why is my 6-year-old not home yet?’’” Thompson said. “They can look at the app and figure it out pretty quickly.”

While precautions are in place on the buses themselves, Glen Adamson, a driving instructor at 9-1-1 Driving School in Rocky River, is making sure good driving habits are in place early. His advice to not just younger drivers, but any driver is simple.

“We’ve seen accidents. We’ve seen the results of poor driving,” Adamson said. “If you know you’re approaching a school zone, start slowing down long before you approach the lights.”

Troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol have issued 13,943 citations from 2016 through 2020 for school zone violations, including not stopping for a school bus.

In Ohio, everyone needs to stop for a school bus unloading students if they are on a road with less than four lanes.

If there are four or more lanes, with or without a barrier, traffic heading the opposite direction can keep going. If you’re traveling the same direction as the bus, drivers must stop.

“We make it very clear, that yellow light comes on you are to slow down not to speed up,” Adamson said. “One of the big things we talk about is scanning. Looking farther down the road.10-15 seconds. So, if they’re scanning, even if they’re not in the school zone, they’re looking for potential trouble.”

State law says that when you’re ticketed for not stopping for a stopped school bus, you face a mandatory in-person court appearance.

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