Yankton School District uses technology to keep students safe on school buses

YANKTON, S.D. (KSFY) - School is back in session for many students which means millions nationwide begin and end their day with a trip on a school bus.

The Yankton School District is taking new safety measures to keep their students. It's the result of new technology the district has invested in.

Almost every school year we hear about kids being hit by drivers who didn't stop for a school bus. In Yankton, they've had some close calls, but nothing too serious yet. They're hoping new technology will help them avoid a tragedy.

"Stop for school buses. There’s nothing worse we can do than to hit a kid," Yankton Bus Driver, Tim Engle said.

Many cars zoomed past a stopped school bus in Yankton this past school year ignoring all flashing stop sign signals. All of them likely to receive a $150 fine if the state can identify the driver.

"We do have incidents where people don't slow down at all. I’ve had them pass my buses at 70 miles an hour," Engle said.

Engle is responsible for several children before and after school. Last January, he came across an LED light that might reduce the number of drive-bys they see.

"We thought it was significant enough to give it a try," Engle said.

Before installation, the school district watched for 21 school days and documented 17 drive-bys without the sign. After the sign was installed they watched for another 21 days and observed only two drive-bys. That’s an 87 percent decrease.

"In a about a 15 week period I mean that's significant," Engle said.

A $375 sign changed how drivers in Yankton respond.

"It was worth every penny,” Engle said. "You read in the news every year about people being killed. I believe one family lost three out of four of their children last year."

That's why when the stop sign is out it means to make a complete stop. It's not like a regular stop sign where you stop then go right away if you can.

Yankton has also added a program where students scan an ID to get on the bus.

"It will alert the driver if that's an authorized rider or if he's getting on or off that bus at an unplanned stop," Engle said.

It helps bus drivers make sure students get home safely.

"If you're a driver you get to know these children. You almost bond with them and you don't want them to have to get off that bus to take care of them after an accident any more than you would want to do that with your own kids," Engle said.

Yankton school buses are monitored wherever they go. To keep parents at ease they can download an app called 'Here Comes the Bus' to see where their child is at all times.

Each school bus is equipped with three outside cameras. If caught passing a school bus with a stop arm out, that video will be sent to the state for them to take legal action.