Satellite Radio and GPS Ride The Buses

JONESBORO (KAIT) For most of us it's probably been a long time since we have ridden a school bus. Now we sit and wait for the bus to drop off our kids. New technology on school buses is making the ride more pleasant and safer.

New on the Jonesboro School District buses this year are satellite radios.

Steven Whitehurst, JPS "It originally started out as being music for the kids that did not have any vulgar language or suggestive lyrics."

9th Grader Jessica Brown, enjoys the new system.  "It's entertaining, it's what we listen to."

Driver Thomas Stoll sees it as a tool for controlling bus behavior.  "If they get too loud I'll turn it off and they can sit there in the quiet and if they are pretty good I'll turn it back on and they can listen to some music."

Besides entertainment the radio provides several useful functions.

It has a pa system built in and a help button.

Whitehurst, "It calls a dispatch and then they ask if everything is ok and then they'll notify a 911 center here locally."

Tied in with the radio is a GPS system that provides data on where the bus has been, how fast it was going and where it stopped.

Whitehurst, "If I do get a complaint and say somebody calls in and say one of my drivers was driving too fast or they didn't stop at a railroad crossing I can go back in and look at it."

Right now the data is not in real time, it downloads every night so it can be seen the next day.The radios and GPS came at no cost to the school system.

The GPS system and satellite radios make it great for the kids but there's a couple of things coming down the road that parents are really going to like.

Whitehurst, "Bus radio is working on a parent notification. The GPS from the bus will send either an e-mail or a text on their cell phones. To notify them that the bus is running early or the bus is running late and it will also notify them once the bus gets so many blocks from their house."

This service will cost a dollar a month and is expected to be in the buses by the end of the year.

Another option will be the kid tracker. A card that the student carries will be detected by the system so it will automatically know who is on the bus. This option is a bit pricey right now but still a possibility depending on budget.