Ohio Pilots a High Tech School Bus Alert System to Protect School Children

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In Ohio, Department of Transportation officials are trying to figure out how to get drivers to pay more attention to signs on and about school buses.

School buses are so ubiquitous across the American educational landscape that they have penetrated our understanding and perception of the primary school experience. Not only that, but they are subject to many safety rules, keeping then heavy, tall, and equipped with emergency exits — and they are notoriously safe.

Data shows that just four school-aged children are killed aboard buses every year, as compared with the 490 killed going to and from school in passenger vehicles. The real risk to school children when riding the bus is actually while getting on and off.

This is despite the stop sign that indicates to drivers that children are boarding or disembarking; it is illegal to pass a school bus at this time. In advertising, on-site signage can have a value of more than 25 newspaper ads per year, but for school buses, enforced signage has saved children’s lives.

Researchers are trying to utilize signs to improve safety even more; they have suggested installing flashing lights on signs in order to get drivers attention by activating proximity sensors to determine when a bus is approaching. The sensors would depend on radio frequency to tell when the bus was approaching and light up a “School Bus Stop Ahead” sign.

Other innovations are also coming to the school bus arena, such as a school bus tracking app that has been developed by AppAlert Inc, a startup making school-bus monitoring software.

Seed funding for the project has amounted to $900,000 in a round led by Narinder Singh, a U.S. based investor. Trials of the product have been deployed across 20 school in the National Capital Region and Mumbai.

The app provides information to schools on whether their buses are speeding or if they break down and sends messages to parents letting them know when the children have reached school.

“The average waiting time for parents and caregivers at bus stops today is a maximum of 17 minutes,” said AppAlert founder Ashuvinder Ahuja. “More than half the calls school managements have to field are about buses leaving or arriving. In today’s day and age when any and all information is available on one’s fingertips, it is unfair that parents and schools struggle with gathering and dissemination of such vital information on a daily basis.”

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