COULD NEW SCHOOL BUS SAFETY EQUIPMENT HAVE PREVENTED CRASH THAT KILLED INDIANA KIDS?
October 27, 2018
FULTON COUNTY, INDIANA: Three siblings aged 6, 6, and 9 were hit and killed by the driver of a pickup truck who failed to stop for their boarding school bus during the early morning of Tuesday, October 30th. A fourth child, aged 11, suffered multiple broken bones from the impact and was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition. The driver of the pickup truck, Alyssa Shepherd, 24, told authorities that she saw something big with lights when she turned the corner near the 4660 block of Indiana 25, but did not recognize it as a school bus. Shepherd claims she tried to figure out what it was, but by the time she realized it was a school bus it was too late to stop.
The tragedy happened around 7:15 am, a full hour before sunrise. Shepherd should have been able to clearly see the flashing amber and red warning lights in the dim light, but it is conceivable that the decals on the front and back of the bus that display the words “SCHOOL BUS” were not visible. Anyone in the United States with a valid driver’s license should know that a school bus with its flashing red lights activated is telling motorists to stop. But red lights without clear “SCHOOL BUS” identifiers could be confused with another large vehicle like a garbage truck – a vehicle motorists are not required to stop for. The retroreflective decal that was used on the school bus involved in Tuesday morning’s devastating accident requires direct light from the approaching vehicle’s headlights to be visible in the dark. Because the road where the incident occurred was not straight, it is possible that Shepherd’s headlights did not reach the decal at the angle they were pointing, thus, failing to properly illuminate the decal and communicate with motorists. The decal is mounted at the highest point on the bus, so even as Shepherd approached the bus, it is possible that her headlights did not achieve the angle required to illuminate the words.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time a motorist has reported seeing flashing lights but not being able to identify the vehicle they were attached to. Nearly 7 years ago, a family from Wyoming lost their 11-year-old daughter, Makayla, when she was hit and killed by a motorist who failed to yield to her stopped school bus. Like Shepherd, the motorist testified that he saw the flashing warning lights, but did not know that what he was looking at was a school bus. (Click here to read Makayla’s Story)
First Light has developed an Illuminated School Bus Sign designed to eliminate any doubt that what motorists are seeing is, in fact, a school bus. The fully Illuminated Destination Sign is visible beyond 1,000 feet, readable beyond 300 feet, and can be seen up to a 180° angle. Makayla’s stepfather, Dan Sperry, has stated that he believes Makayla could still be alive today if her school bus had been equipped with First Light’s sign. We believe our sign could have also changed the outcome of the tragic event that took place in Indiana last week.
The sign recently gained approval from the New York Department of Transportation. First Light will be pilot testing the sign in New York and Georgia in early 2019, and it will be made available for purchase in Fall 2019.
Pictured Left to Right: Back-lit Sign, First Light’s Illuminated School Bus Sign, Retroreflective Decal