NYC school buses to be equipped with speed-limiting technology to improve safety

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By Dan Sears

New York City is testing out new technology that automatically prevents school bus drivers from speeding as part of an initiative to protect children and pedestrians across the five boroughs.

Schools Chancellor David Banks and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services are expected to announce Monday that 50 school buses will be equipped with “intelligent speed assistance,” which forces drivers to follow the speed limit.

“Our primary responsibility as a community and a school system is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our youngest New Yorkers, not only when they are in class but also as they are transitioning to and from their schools,” Banks said. “The rollout of these safety strategies designed to protect our school bus riders will give our families peace of mind that their babies are safe.”

Between 2017 and 2022, 11 people died in crashes involving city school buses, according to a study by the federal government. Over the same period, there were 347 incidents involving city school buses and pedestrians or cyclists that resulted in insurance claims. The study also found 8,172 claims related to school transportation that resulted in $90 million in payments and $249 million in unpaid claims.

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The city began installing speed governors, or limiters, in its vehicle fleet in 2022. In total, 2,000 city vehicles, including sedans, vans and pickups, will be equipped with the technology. The municipal fleet has more than 30,000 vehicles.

Administrative Services Commissioner Dawn Pinnock said vehicles with the technology experienced a 36% reduction in “hard braking events,” which is a sign of unsafe driving.

“Everyday parents and families entrust our city to transport their children to and from school safely, and by enacting these new initiatives we are reaffirming our commitment to make this a reality,” she said about the introduction of school buses to the program. “We are excited for the new prospects and for the expansion of intelligent speed assistance. Our agency is fully invested in making all fleet vehicles greener, safer, and better for all New Yorkers.”

The city will also test out turn signals that flash LED lights and play audio messages to make pedestrians aware of turning buses, as well as new cameras to improve drivers’ visibility.

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Beyond the school buses, 250 other city vehicles from an assortment of agencies will be equipped with the speed-limiting technology. The program is part of a $30 million federal Department of Transportation grant awarded to NYC last month.

According to a 2023 report by that department, the city’s Office of Pupil Transportation carries about 150,000 students to and from school, with 52 bus companies operating on more than 9,000 routes.

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