This year’s award recipient is Project Bright Light, Bemidji Area Schools.
In May 2017, during the Northwest MN TZD workshop in Bemidji, the Minnesota State Patrol presented on a fatal crash involving a school bus. The compelling story sparked an idea to improve the visibility of students waiting for a school bus and to create an education program for them.
Seven-year-old Anthony Fellman was killed on October 6, 2016, when he was struck by a minivan while crossing a state highway to reach his school bus near Thief River Falls. One of the contributing factors in the crash was that the bus initially missed seeing him and his brothers and so turned around to go back to the stop.
Project Bright Light by Bemidji Area Schools is designed to alert school bus drivers to the presence of students waiting to be picked up. Monica Gregerson, school bus safety manager for the Bemidji school district, championed the test program, which began in October 2017. The program targets student bus stops located along high-speed, high-volume roadways. Flashing lights were chosen because students had a history of using the rapid flash mode on their cell phones or waving ordinary flashlights to signal an approaching school bus.
For the project, Bemidji Area Schools purchased 200 Safety First Tri-Function Blinking Lights, then mailed information about Project Bright Light to each bus-stop household within the district. During National School Bus Safety Week (October 16–20, 2017) the Minnesota State Patrol and Beltrami County Sheriff’s Department helped distribute the lights and provide education about bus stop safety. The education component included teaching kids what to do if the school bus passes by them, is running late, or doesn’t come at all.