Tulsa Public School bus railroad crossing safety

Wednesday, December 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

How do you know your children are safe when they board the school bus? That's the question some Tulsa parents are asking, after seeing bus after bus roll through railroad crossings.

News on Six reporter Tami Marler has been looking into the problem. When school buses come rolling up to a railroad crossing, they're supposed to stop and make sure it's clear before moving on. We found that's not always happening, and Tulsa Public Schools knows it. School buses full of children aren't supposed to slam on their brakes in the middle of railroad tracks, but residents in this neighborhood say they see things like this every day. "Some of them come to a stop, but what I see today, they haven't been stopping. They slow down a little bit; but I think it's because the tracks are a little rough." "It tried to stop, no it didn’t.” Going against safety - and school policy.

Jim Taylor with Tulsa Public Schools, "If a school bus has a passenger on it, the bus is required to stop at every railroad crossing. If the only occupant on the vehicle is the school bus driver, they are not required by law to stop." Mother of a Tulsa Public School student, "It's scary to know that my daughter's riding one of those buses that it's hard to tell if they even stop at all the railroad tracks - you know, how they're driving. So it's a little scary."

Tulsa Public School officials hear concerns like this every day, but with 365 bus drivers, they can't be in every bus, every minute. Until now. "What we're getting ready to do in the near future is with our global positioning systems." That's right, Global Positioning Systems in every school bus, with constant monitoring at headquarters. Already, buses for special needs students are equipped with GPS, so supervisors know exactly where they are, how fast they're driving, and whether they're following the rules of the road.

Jim Taylor, "We geocode the railroad crossing stops within the city into our system, and then as a bus crosses the tracks, it will record whether the bus stopped or did not stop. It also gives us the capability to check our speed. Right now, I can tell you if a bus is speeding anywhere in the city of Tulsa. If a bus is doing 35 in a 25 mile an hour zone, you'll get a flash on the screen that says this bus is exceeding, we can call them and say 'hey, whoa, slow down.” At a cost of about a thousand dollars a bus, Tulsa Public Schools will be installing GPS systems in every one. Until they're installed, school officials ask the public to take down the bus number, and call in your concerns.