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Union County Public Schools plans to run 230 buses for the 2021-22 school year. About 30 will have an extended arm. Photo courtesy of UCPS

MONROE --Several Union County Public Schools buses will have a slightly different look this new school year. About 30 buses will have extended stop arms to assist in the safety of students, bus drivers and motorists.

The new safety feature was placed on select buses this past May, ahead of summer learning camp.

“This device will help ensure that any students that have to cross the roadway will be better protected from motorists,” Transportation Director Scott Denton said. “That’s our primary goal. That’s why we are in this business to provide safe transportation.”

Traditional school bus stop arms extend to about 21 inches from the bus (a little less than two feet), the new extended stop arms reach 79 inches from the bus (about six and a half feet) into the lane of oncoming traffic.

The feature also has an additional stop sign and blinking lights.

“The extended stop arms do two things, one is it provides an enhanced visual notification for approaching motorists that a passenger stop is being made,” Denton said. “It also requires our drivers to focus on the passenger stop procedure and part of that procedure requires them to check traffic in both directions before deploying their stop arm.”

UCPS was able to bring the new feature to Union County with state funds. Several counties in North Carolina have already piloted the safety feature.

Denton said more buses may have this safety feature as time goes on, and based on the experiences with the current devices.

“I’m hoping this new safety feature will make an impact on people running the stops arms,” said Dottie Nash, a UCPS bus driver who has the device on her bus. “Sometimes I think that people just don’t pay attention and that is dangerous for the students that you’re trying to get across the road. I’m hoping that this will improve the safety of all of our students.”

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