Students board a Monticello school bus on Bridge Street the morning of Nov. 16, 2018.

SPRINGFIELD — Schools may soon have new options to improve safety for their school buses, if legislation filed by State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) and passed by the Illinois Senate becomes law.

“To me this is pretty simple, our local school districts should have the freedom they need to make sure their facilities, including buses, are as safe as they can be," said Rose. “Government should not be getting in the way of making schools safer for students.”

Senate Bill 1808, filed by Rose, would create an Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) pilot program to permit the testing of safety equipment that is not otherwise prohibited by law.

The legislation was inspired by the Monticello school district. District officials wanted to try to reduce illegal passing of stopped school buses by using extended stop arms on their buses, something that is used in other states. Unfortunately, they discovered that IDOT rules prohibited the use of extended arms in Illinois.

“I see extended stop arms as another possible way to improve student safety by creating a physical deterrent for vehicles passing stopped buses. A vehicle will be better able to see that the stop arm is out as it is extended into the oncoming lane of traffic. This creates an optional safety device for school districts to consider to improve safety,” Monticello School Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said.

“I’m excited to hopefully be a part of this pilot program in Illinois. This has been an ongoing effort that required discussions with the NTSB and IDOT over several years. One question that was asked during the process was, ‘Could a vehicle passing a stopped school bus using an extended stop arm get damaged if it runs into the stop arm?’ The answer is yes — that’s the point of it.”

“Obviously we hope that this pilot program will lead to more sensible rules moving forward,” Rose said. “Student safety, not some bureaucratic rule should be our top priority.”

Rose’s legislation passed the Senate and is now headed to the House for consideration in that chamber.

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