MCS pioneers bus safety system

Publish Date: 01/15/2014
Marion Community Schools is hoping a pilot program its Transportation Department initiated will one day help improve safety for children at bus stops across Indiana.

MCS is in the midst of a trial period for use of the Guardian Angel School Bus Lighting System. Four buses have been equipped with special lights on their front bumpers that can be activated to shine across the road, illuminating a path for students who are crossing in front of the bus – and in front of oncoming traffic. The light gives better sight and safety to the students, but it also serves to illuminate the children, to make them more visible to oncoming drivers.

MCS Transportation Coordinator Don Batchelor and Lead Transportation Mechanic Dave Chapman learned about the Guardian Angel lights from their main replacement parts supplier, United School Bus Parts. Batchelor learned that the lights were not approved for use by school buses in the state of Indiana, but believing that this extra lighting could improve safety for Marion students, he pursued permission from the state to use them.

Initially, state officials denied the request, but asked for more information. After a presentation from Batchelor and Chapman, in spring 2012 MCS was given permission to proceed with a 12-month trial with four buses. At the end of that trial period, Batchelor is to give a report to state officials on how the system performed, and provide his recommendation as to future use of the system. The state will then consider approving the lighting system for wider use.

A few months into the trial period, Batchelor said, “the drivers really think the lights are fantastic.”

He has asked each of the drivers to document positives and negatives, and the department is tracking input from parents, as well. Batchelor said parents at the bus stops have commented on the added safety the lights provide.

As the days grow shorter heading into fall and winter, the Guardian Angel system will again be guiding the way for students on dark mornings. Marion Community Schools is proud to be leading the way in testing this system.

"This is another fine example of the employees of MCS going above and beyond to provide a safe environment for our students," said MCS Director of Support Services Troy Freeman, who oversees the Transportation Department.