BOZEMAN — School bus safety was a hot topic during the last legislative session, in part because of the case of Jordana Hubble, a 6 year-old-girl from Whitefish, who was struck and severely injured after getting off of her bus in 2019. Montana state passed a law to extend the stop sign arm on the side of the school bus to be 6 feet over the road to increase safety.
During the last state legislative session, lawmakers approved House Bill 267. Starting in July, it will require school buses to include an extended stop arm if the bus route has any stops where kids have to cross the street.
First Student Bozeman is the company that provides bus transportation for the Bozeman School District.
First Student's location manager Tara Jo Myer says the new law was needed and shared what the change entails for the company and the district.
“It’s been a long time coming, a lot of passing violations with kids, unfortunately, cars just not paying attention,” says Myer.
The new extensions to the stop sign will cover about two-thirds of the road facing oncoming traffic. In the past, stop signs only swung out without an extension for children to get in and out of the bus. This new extension will swing out and be extremely noticeable to oncoming cars to help limit the number of people who illegally pass the stopped school bus at a crossing.
“The normal stop arm was just a regular stop sign, and so this is an extension of that,” says Myer.
Myer said the new stop sign extension will cost money, but that this law is well worth it for the children of Montana.
“The cost is immeasurable compared to the children's safety,” stated Myer.
Every First Student bus will be equipped with a stop sign extension arm. These arms will be done by the beginning of the school year. First Student is working hard to make sure children are as safe as possible for the fast-approaching school year.
“We wanna make sure that the kids are as safe as possible, and this will help make that possible”
Besides the stop arm rules, HB 267 also prohibited drivers from passing a school bus on the right and increased penalties for passing while the flashing red lights are on.
The Montana Office of Public Instruction has information on HB 267 and the changes to school bus standards on its website.