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Bus Flashing Red Lights in Urban Areas

Bus Flashing Lights in Urban Areas

At first glance, the use of flashing red lights and the stop arm on buses in an urban area seems like it would increase safety, however, research shows that the opposite is actually true.

Elk Island Public Schools created a brochure with a detailed background and research. A summary of some of the main points include: 

  • The practice of using the flashing red lights and stop arm was originally intended for use on rural roads only, as they do not have curbs or sidewalks, crosswalks or traffic control devices to help pedestrians to cross the road safely, and rural roads tended to have higher speed limits.
  • Several Alberta cities researched whether implementing school bus flashing lights would make their communities safer and found:
    • "Where well marked intersections and roadways are present, it is actually safer to use those markings and devices than to use flashing school bus lights."
    • "Allowing school buses to randomly stop mid-block and have children cross the street in front of the school buses is unsafe and increases the pedestrian accident risk."
    • Non-compliance with flashing red lights and stop arms is an identified problem in jurisdictions that mandate their use. This puts children at risk for collisions.
    • Mandating the use of flashing red light and stop arm cannot guarantee students safety during loading-unloading of school buses; rather this could increase the risk of a collision by providing a false sense of security while crossing the road.
  • Alberta Transportation encourages parents to teach their children to use Point, Pause and Proceed to cross at intersections and marked crosswalks and the use of the flashing lights conflicts with these teaching as the students cross immediately in front of the bus, regardless of where it stops.
  • In Alberta winters, mid-block areas may not be cleared of snow, and children may even need to climb over windrows (either along the side or in the middle of the road). There is a concern about children slipping and falling under the bus
  • Not all vehicles respect the flashing lights and the concern about non-compliance is strong
  • The children can not see past the bus which makes it difficult for children to see vehicles that may not be stopping. They feel a false sense of security that traffic will stop

Elk Island Public Schools Brochure
Student Transportation Association of Alberta Brochure