Improving the safety of school travel via bus warning signage in Aberdeenshire, Scotland
mode - school bus, place - europe, planning - safety/accidents, planning - signage/information, planning - surveys
Aberdeenshire, Scotland, school bus signs, warning signs, surveys, school children
Following two fatal accidents involving local school children who were alighting school buses in September 2008, Aberdeenshires local authority has progressed a number of demonstration projects that sought to improve the safety of home-to-school transport services across the region. This paper focuses on one of these initiatives which involved the design and evaluation of a new, higher-visibility school bus sign with the aim of increasing motorists awareness to school buses, and in turn, the possible presence of school pupils, who might be alighting or boarding the vehicles. We begin by providing a brief summary of UK (and international where relevant) accident statistics specifically related to accidents occurring at or around bus stops when passengers are alighting and boarding buses. We also highlight problems with the way statistical data are collected and reported, using evidence from non-official data sources to highlight any specific problems in terms of miss-reporting (specifically under-reporting) of school bus accident rates. This is followed by an overview of current UK and international guidance and legislation on the design and use of school bus warning signs. Following this, we provide details on the design of the new school bus safety warning sign, and subsequent evaluation, which involved three surveys. The first involved a sample of 900 local drivers who were asked to compare the old and new signs in terms of visibility, understandability and interpretation as how they should behave as drivers when approaching/ overtaking school buses. The second survey involved local school bus drivers who as above were asked to compare both signs in terms of visibility, understandability and interpretation, as well as commenting on the impact of the new sign on drivers behavior (speed, overtaking maneuvers etc.), compared to the old sign. A third form of evaluation involved motorist behaviour surveys based on analysis of motorists speeds when travelling past three different types of buses parked in a lay-by; a school bus displaying no signage; a school bus displaying the old signage; and a school bus displaying the new trial signage. On all aspects the new sign was evaluated more positively, and drivers were observed (by bus drivers) or reported themselves that the new sign would affect the way they drove when school buses were present, in a safer way due to their greater awareness of the potential for school children boarding or alighting buses. Ongoing discussions are continuing with the Scottish Government for the potential roll-out of the new signs across Scotland, while there has also been great interest in this project at the European level through the EU SafeWays2School research programme.
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Fraser, R., & Carreno, M. (2011). Improving the safety of school travel via bus warning signage in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Paper delivered at the European Transport Conference held in Glasgow, Scotland, on 10 - 12 October, 2011.