Legislation filed by State Representative Mike Murphy (R-Springfield) to improve school bus safety has been signed into law by Governor Pritzker. House Bill 2584 establishes a pilot program to allow schools in the state of Illinois to equip their buses with an extended flashing arm attached to a bus stop sign, known as a S.A.F.E. Gate. Research has shown the addition of the extended arm has reduced incidents of motorists ignoring bus stop signs by as much as 95 percent, drastically reducing the risk to school children crossing the road.
“The Federal Department of Transportation estimates that as many as 18 million school bus stop sign violations happen each year,” said Murphy. “Those violations cause far too many deaths and injuries of children that are completely avoidable, but the addition of a S.A.F.E. Gate extended stop arm is a simple solution to help improve visibility and protect children. As a grandparent, I’m proud to be the sponsor of legislation that gives our schools access to an easy tool to keep all our kids and grandkids safe.”
The S.A.F.E. Gate works by adding a four-foot-long fiberglass or aluminum arm equipped with flashing lights and additional reflective material to the foldout stop signs on a school bus. The addition of the extended arm has the effect of improving visibility up to a mile away, but more importantly, causes motorists to treat it more like a railroad crossing arm and deters drivers from ignoring the legal requirement to stop when buses are dropping off and picking up children.
While S.A.F.E. Gates are actually manufactured here in Springfield by SAFE BusGates and have federal approval, the strict regulations for school bus equipment in Illinois required legislation before schools could have the option to use them. Once the Illinois Department of Transportation establishes the pilot program created under Murphy’s legislation, Illinois schools will have the ability to improve the safety of their buses through this simple, yet potentially life-saving piece of equipment. Murphy also noted it is not a mandate, school districts retain local control.