New, high-tech safety gear could soon be added to Kanawha County School buses

Kanawha County Schools could be adding more gadgets to its buses before the start of the 2016-17 school year in an ongoing pursuit of student safety.

Currently, all the district’s buses have child reminder systems in place as well as emergency exits, double handlebars for gripping and automatic floor lights. Additionally, certain county buses utilize extended stop arms to help prevent illegal school bus passing. Some of the newer buses also have disk brakes, which make for better stopping distance, and back-up sensors to help drivers as they move in reverse.

Soon, more high-tech gear could be added to buses with the help of the Kanawha County Safety Bus.

“We’re trying all the technology that’s there that we’re allowed to try to make it more safe for the children,” said Jerry Young, an electronic tech leader for KCS Department of Transportation.

Young said through the safety bus, they’re able to test new safety gadgets with the hopes they can eventually install them on all or some of the district’s buses.

Some of those gadgets are already in the works.

This year, KCS tested the student detection system, or SDS, on its safety bus. Young said the system utilizes sensors on the outside of the bus in the “danger zones,” then alerts drivers when someone is within a 10 foot radius. It’s meant to alert drivers before students or parents are caught in the doors or under the wheels of the school bus.

After testing SDS on the safety bus, the department of transportation is ordering two more systems they’ll install on operating school buses by next school year, Young said.

“I’ve seen many many times children come to the door when you’re ready to take off. [You] only [know they’re there] because other students seen ‘em or are banging on the door,” Youn said. “Using this we would be alerted right away.”

SDS costs $1,365 per unit, said Brette Fraley, executive director of KCS department of transportation.

KCS also recently installed The Fogmaker, a fire suppression system, on its safety bus. The system automatically detects a fire, then works to extinguish the flames in seconds by addressing the three elements of a fire: heat, oxygen and fuel.

Jimmy Lacy, KCS supervisor of transportation safety, said they’re hoping to install the system on all of the district’s 38 special needs buses if it is approved by the state board. He says the system would save them vital seconds in the event of a fire.

“It takes so much longer to evacuate a special needs bus than it does a regular bus,” Lacy said. “You have kids in wheelchairs, kids in restraints that you have to cut out or get out before they get off the bus, so that’ll be a big plus.”

Each Fogmaker unit costs roughly $2600, Fraley said.

Young says the district will install Generation IV LED lights on the safety bus in the near future. The lights will replace the existing 8-way light system currently on board. Young says the new lights will be placed above the bus’ rear bumper, in its grill and on the stop arm.

Lacy and Young think the new lights could help reduce the number of drivers illegally passing stopped school buses.

“The LED lights stand out so much,” Lacy said. “People say, ‘I can’t see the lights.’ With the LED lights, you shouldn’t have any trouble seeing those.”

Fraley said Generation IV lights cost $85 a set.

Additionally, Young says they’ll install eyelids along  with the LED lights on the safety bus in an effort to minimize glare and maximize drivers’ abilities to see the school bus.

Some school bus drivers say - all steps in the right direction.

“It’s like wearing your own seatbelt - how many times do you really use it? how many times does it really come into play?” said Ed Webb, KCS school bus driver. “They have to be there in the event, in the unlikely event, there would be a frontal collision...I love [the kids] to death. I feel like I’m their grandpa, and I wouldn’t want anything at all to happen to them.”

More Stories

Local Sports

Trending Stories

Latest News - Local