Kanawha County demonstrates new bus safety measures

Published: Aug. 7, 2018 at 6:09 PM EDT
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Kanawha County Schools transportation staff held a school bus safety demonstration on Tuesday. Many buses were on display with new safety features.

Ten Kanawha County school buses have upgraded stop arms. Some buses got an extended stop arm, while others got stop arms that work better on narrow roadways.

Fifty buses had guardian angel lights installed on the front bumper. Guardian angel lights illuminate both sides of the bus so the bus driver has a better view of the students and other drivers.

Many buses have added GPS systems and cameras. The cameras will be used to watch children, as well as catch the license plates of cars that pass illegally.

"I've had several incidences where people ran my lights and come in seconds of hitting kids," said Kanawha County bus driver Brian Newhouse.

In 2014, 93 vehicles passed buses illegally. Last year, that number was down to 13.

"Thirteen too many, but a vast improvement," said Executive Director of Transportation for Kanawha County Schools Brette Fraley.

Transit buses and buses for special needs students will get fire suppression systems this year. A fire suppression system has sensors around the engine, and when the engine reaches a certain temperature, or catches fire, the system will spray it down.

Transportation Supervisor of Safety and Training Jimmy Lacy said when a fire starts on a bus, the driver only has a minute and a half to get students out. This fire suppression system will provide the bus driver with more time to act on buses with more people or wheelchairs.

Lacy also said 10 feet around a bus in every direction is considered the "danger zone." If a student is within 10 feet of a bus, the driver cannot see them.

"It is very important that they know to get 10 steps away from the bus," Lacy said.

Some buses also have an electronic stabilization system that brakes on its own if a driver takes a turn at a high speed.

"Everything we can do for the safety of a child is well worth every penny we spend on it," Lacy said.

Another staff member mentioned students should not wear headphones while loading and unloading the bus. This keeps the students alert and aware of what is going on around them.