Bus safety project honors Janesville student killed in crash - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Bus safety project honors Janesville student killed in crash

Kim & Ryan Bradfield, Justin's parents Kim & Ryan Bradfield, Justin's parents

A project that could help keep your kids safer around school buses is moving forward and expanding in Iowa.  It has to do with knowing where your child is around the bus.

The bus safety project is in honor of 11-year-old Justin Bradfield.  Bradfield was struck and killed by his school bus October 31, 2011 near Janesville after he stepped in front of the bus to pick up something he'd dropped.

A Janesville student started "The Smile BIG Project" in his memory last April to add motion sensors to school buses to prevent similar accidents.  Soon, that technology will start being tested in three school districts.

Kim and Ryan Bradfield have kept their son Justin's room the same way it's looked since Justin died a year and a half ago.

"I always think about how he'd look like or how he would be at almost 13 years old," Kim Bradfield said.

The Bradfields are working to cope with losing Justin through a project started in his memory.  Smile BIG has grown from Janesville student Emily Halbach's school project to a foundation, raising money to make school buses safer.

The goal is to equip every Janesville bus with a series of motion detectors with alarms that sound if a student gets too close to the bus.

"To know a system like this can be put on a bus and let the bus driver know what danger zone they're in is amazing," said Ryan Bradfield.

But the foundation hit a snag trying to install sensors on Janesville buses.  The state is requiring a pilot project to study how the system work.  While it's an extra cost, smile big is pressing ahead.

"We're going to make this happen.  We're going to do this for Justin, and we're going to do this for all the other kids and do what we have to do to raise this money and do this pilot program.  It's not just about keeping Janesville kids safe, it's about every student that rides a bus," said Traci Berry with the Smile BIG Foundation.

The first two motion detection sensors have now been put on Janesville buses and will soon be added on buses in Mason City and Spencer.  The data collected will give bus drivers and school districts a better view on student safety.

If the pilot project is a success and shows the motion sensors work well, the sensors will be put on every single school bus in Janesville.  The Iowa legislature is considering a bill to require sensors on new school buses statewide.  The Bradfields hope eventually the technology will be mandatory on all buses for one simple reason. 

"We don't want to see another family go through anything like this.  So even just one more child preventing this from happening would be worth it," Kim Bradfield said.

And that's something the Bradfields think would make Justin do what he loved:  smile big.

You can support the Smile BIG Foundation at a fundraiser in Waterloo next month.  It's April 6th at the National Cattle Congress Pavilion.  Doors open for the concert and auction at 6 p.m.  Admission is free, but donations are accepted.  Proceeds will help pay for more bus motion sensors in Janesville after the pilot project is done.



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