SACS using fully illuminated buses to make commutes safer

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Southwest Allen County Schools is working to make getting to and from school safer for students by making its buses more visible.

The new buses feature fully illuminated school bus signs, stop signs and stop arms.

“On a regular bus, you’re just going to get the flashing lights. You’re not going to get the signs that are lit up also… They can be seen from a mile away,” said Steve Lake, the Transportation Director for SACS. “After the accident a couple years ago, we decided that we’re going to do whatever we could to identify our buses and make it so people could distinguish between them and other vehicles on the road.”

The accident he’s referring to happened in Rochester, Indiana in October 2018. An Indiana woman struck and killed three children with a pickup truck as they crossed a two-lane state highway to board a school bus.

Lake said he read the 60-page incident report cover to cover.

“The thing that really stuck with me was that the lady didn’t couldn’t identify it [the bus],” said Lake. “So from that point on, we want to make sure that there’s no question that when our lights are flashing, that people can identify what we are from a long distance off.”

The image, courtesy of SACS spokeswoman Stacey Flemming, compares a regular school bus to one with the illuminated lights.

So far, the district has seven new school buses with the illuminated equipment. According to Lake, enough equipment to retrofit 10 more buses have also been ordered. He said moving forward, any bus the district buys will have the illuminated equipment as well.

It costs about $2,000 per bus to do so.

“We think when you’re buying a bus that’s [already] $130,000, $2,000 [more] isn’t so bad for the safety of the kids,” said Lake.

SACS currently also has one bus that allows bus drivers to record stop-arm violations. Information about violators can be easily shared with law enforcement via a tablet.

“One of the problems that we have also are people that run our stop arms,” said Lake. “Whether they don’t see them or they don’t understand the laws or they just don’t care, that that happens daily and with these stop arms on here, there should be no excuse.”

A district spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools said its transportation department has looked into these enhanced safety products, and will consider adding them to new buses in the future.

NACS and EACS did not return WANE 15’s inquires about their buses.

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