Some Manitoba school divisions are testing a new product which aims to make school buses more visible on the roadway.

A Winnipeg company has created illuminated signage to go on the fronts and backs of buses and a pilot project is underway to determine how well the signs work.

Two buses in the Interlake School Division were outfitted at the end of January with the signs on the front and back of each bus.

The division's transportation supervisor, Jaret Thiessen, said it's part of a one-year pilot project to see if the signs will help increase safety for students.

"It adds to the visibility of a bus on the road,” said Thiessen. "Every year we have many people go through our stop signs, putting our children at risk and anything we can do to reduce that risk, we're going to do."

The illuminated signs were developed in Manitoba by Winnipeg-based Smartrend Manufacturing Group. Company president and founder Kevin Smith said the signs are made using reflective LED technology.

LED bus signs
(Jamie Dowsett/CTV Winnipeg)

"We were in a position to be able to recognize an opportunity with school bus safety,” said Smith. "The point is to make motorists aware of the school buses from long distances, increasing visibility and thus increasing safety for the children on the bus."

Most school buses aren't required to have illuminated signage. Smith hopes school divisions in Manitoba and right across North America will see value in the company's product.

"Illuminated school bus signs are not the standard, they're the exception,” said Smith. “Only a few states in the USA require it but there are some buses up here in Canada that do have it."

Smith said the signs will be tested in New York state starting in May.

The Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg has confirmed it will begin a second pilot project in Manitoba later this month.

In the Interlake, early observations have been positive.

"Just seeing it out there, it's definitely bright and it does what it's supposed to do,” said Thiessen.

The Interlake School Division will send out surveys to parents and community members get feedback on the illuminated signs. Thiessen said it would be up to the province to determine if illuminated signs should become mandatory on all buses in Manitoba.

The Manitoba Pupil Transportation Unit which oversees school bus safety in the province said it's aware of the pilot projects.

It worked with Smartrend to ensure the product is compliant with standards and design codes and helped the company connect with participating school divisions.

PTU said it’s also responsible for ensuring the installation of the signs doesn’t damage or interfere with the operation of school buses.