Diesel exhaust study assailed by industry
LOS ANGELES — A highly publicized study that suggests that children riding in school buses are exposed to toxic levels of diesel exhaust is being assailed by school bus industry representatives. The study, called “No Breathing in the Aisles: Diesel Exhaust Inside School Buses,” was sponsored and conducted by two environmental groups — the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Coalition for Clean Air (CCA). The report credits Dr. S. Katherine Hammond of the University of California, Berkeley, with helping to develop the protocol. The researchers sampled diesel exhaust levels inside four Los Angeles-area school buses ranging in age from 13 to 15 years. Based on their findings, they assert that children who ride school buses are exposed to levels of diesel exhaust that pose a “significant” risk of cancer. They estimate that these exposures could cause an additional 23 to 46 cancer cases per million children. The researchers also contend that diesel exhaust found inside school buses could contribute to respiratory problems among sensitive children such as asthmatics. The study was closely followed by the media. CNN, NBC’s Today Show and the Associated Press quickly picked up the story, as did major newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times. The general tone of the coverage followed the press release issued by the NRDC, which was titled “Tests Reveal High Levels of Toxics Inside Diesel School Buses.” In response to the flurry of news stories questioning the safety of diesel school buses, pupil transportation groups such as the School Bus Information Council (SBIC), a media resource sponsored by the National Association for Pupil Transportation and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, countered with an attack on the validity of the study. The SBIC characterized the study as a “publicity technique” to frighten school bus passengers and their parents. In a statement posted at its Website (www.schoolbusinfo.org), the SBIC said “these sensational allegations are based on anecdotal evidence from just four older buses in Los Angeles, a city with the dubious distinction historically of being one of the smoggiest in the nation.” International Truck and Engine Corp. in Chicago also attacked the study, calling it “fundamentally flawed.” International spokesman Tom Trueblood said the results conflict with many other studies, including a recent study by a European research firm called EcoTraffic. Trueblood said that study found that the cancer risk from emissions from natural gas buses is 2.5 times greater than that from advanced clean diesel buses. The full 74-page report issued by the NRDC and CCA can be viewed online at the following Website: http://www.nrdc. org/air/transportation/schoolbus/sbusinx.asp
School bus toy poses choking hazard
WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Playskool, of Pawtucket, R.I., are voluntarily recalling about 12,500 of Playskool’s Busy School Bus toys due to a potential choking hazard. “On certain units, the yellow awning piece above the bus door can break loose, posing a choking hazard to young children,” the CPSC said. No injuries have been reported, but there have been five reports of the yellow awning piece breaking loose. The recall affects toys with item number 5527 and date codes (printed on the bottom of the bus) between 91671 and 91883. The CPSC advises consumers to stop using the toys immediately and to contact Playskool at (888) 510-1561 or visit its Website at www.hasbro.com/consumer/safety.html to receive a free toy of equal value.
Shift in Head Start transportation looms
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Head Start programs will be required to transport children in school buses or “allowable alternative vehicles” beginning in 2006, according to regulations published Jan. 18 in the Federal Register. Under the rule, Head Start agencies have until Jan. 18, 2006, to replace their fleets with school buses or allowable alternatives, which are defined as vehicles that meet school bus crash protection requirements but are not equipped with crash prevention devices such as stop arms and flashing red lights. In addition, these vehicles would not be required to be painted school bus yellow. The rule also requires that all drivers hold a CDL (commercial driver’s license) and undergo pre-service and in-service training. In addition, the rule requires that each vehicle be staffed with at least one adult monitor. Response to the final rule has been mixed. Many Head Start officials say they are pleased with the amount of time the rule allows for compliance. “They’ve given us a time frame to do it in that’s stretched out, so I don’t feel that it’s going to be a problem,” said Judy Hillman, transportation manager at the Marshall Starke Development Center in Plymouth, Ind. Other operators, however, are less optimistic, given the fact that no additional funds will be made available to help them meet the new regulations. “It will certainly require extra dollars to put a monitor on each bus. We’ll have to do some brainstorming on that,” said Cindy Boman, manager of Wright County Community Action in Maple Lake, Minn. “My main issue is with the child safety seats. I just think it’s going to be a difficult thing for a lot of agencies to comply with because of the cost factor,” said Stephen Harrell, transportation supervisor at Macomb County Community Services Agency in Clinton Township, Mich. Carole Droke, director of the Cardinal Center in Warsaw, Ind., agrees that funding is the key issue. “At this point, people are looking at their budgets to see where the money is going to come from,” she said. To download the final rule, go to http://www. access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html, scroll down to the “search terms” section and type in “Head Start transportation” and click on “submit.”
Tennessee driver still going strong after 54 years
FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Franklin Bond never gave much thought to driving a school bus. That is, not until he was asked to drive a PTA bus on special trips during his senior year in high school. That experience provided all the encouragement he needed to seek employment as a school bus driver. After graduating in 1946, he accepted a job offer from the superintendent of Williamson County Schools and was assigned a bus route in the Bethesda community at a salary of $60 a month. He transported the children on that route until he was summoned to military service in 1952. In 1954, he returned to the county and his job as a school bus driver in the Bethesda community. Forty-one years later, he was reassigned to a newly created route outside the community, where, to this day, he continues to provide children with the same level of service the Bethesda-area children received for 47 years. Bond has witnessed many changes in pupil transportation during his 54-year tenure as a school bus driver. The nine-bus fleet that operated without a pupil transportation director or school bus garage in 1946 currently has a fleet of 142 regular route buses. The department now has a director (Tom Taylor), its buses are maintained in top mechanical condition in a state-of-the-art facility and its drivers comply with stringent licensing and annual training requirements. In looking back on his many years of service, Bond credits his success to the following: getting to know his passengers, treating them with respect and expecting the same from them, being fair and consistent in administering punishment for rule infractions, getting to know and staying in contact with his passengers’ parents, avoiding any form of favoritism and keeping rules to a minimum. During his career, Bond has transported three generations of pupil passengers approximately 777,600 miles without an accident. His record of dedicated service to the community is unequaled in the state. More importantly, the people in Bethesda and the rest of the county will never forget him for the positive impact he has had on their lives and the lives of the children they entrusted to his care. Contributed by Dr. Ernest Farmer, retired Tennessee director of pupil transportation.
Driver's daughter comes to rescue
FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. — Having a guardian angel should be a requirement for all school bus drivers. Luckily, Danette Corcoran-Hubbard had hers — Rachel, her 10-year-old daughter — in the passenger seat on the morning of Jan. 16, when, in a freak accident, a deer crashed through the windshield, temporarily blinding her and causing the bus to swerve into the opposing lane of traffic. According to police, Corcoran-Hubbard was driving north on Gingercake Road at approximately 7 a.m. when another car traveling south hit a deer, hurling it toward the school bus. The impact tore the deer in half, with the rear part of the animal smashing through the windshield and hitting Corcoran-Hubbard in the head and chest. “I didn’t know what hit me,” she said. Corcoran-Hubbard only remembers seeing the glass breaking in front of her eyes. Upon realizing that she couldn’t see, her first instincts were to regain control of the bus. She recalls yelling to her daughter: “Rachel, I can’t see. You have to be my eyes and help me keep the bus on this side of the road.” Rachel climbed over the carcass to get her hands on the steering wheel and helped guide the bus to a subdivision road where they managed to stop the vehicle. Frightened because the deer tail was still moving, Rachel urged her mother to get off the bus. “Mom, we’ve got to get off. There’s a deer on the bus!” recounts Corcoran-Hubbard of her daughter’s pleas. Rachel guided her mother off the bus, where they waited for help to arrive. Corcoran-Hubbard said she had trained her daughter for emergency situations, such as what to do if a driver is incapacitated. “I’m grateful I had done that because it made her confident,” she said. “If she had not been with me, it could have been a lot worse. She’s my angel.” Corcoran-Hubbard suffered cuts and abrasions on the upper part of her body and scratched corneas. She has regained her sight, but may need to wear glasses. Corcoran-Hubbard is eager to drive again and is also hoping her bus, No. 182, can be repaired, “I want that bus back. I’ve been through war with her. I trust her.”
Safety camp reprised after last year's success
The second annual New York State Safety Camp, a three-day training program for school bus drivers, will be held June 22-24 at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. The event offers more than a wide range of classroom training for veteran drivers. Last year, 209 drivers from New York and one school bus driver from California attended. The curricula for these advanced courses were developed by the New York State Education Department. The instructors are volunteer School Bus Driver Instructors and Master School Bus Driver Instructors from all over New York. Registration is $109 and includes lodging at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and all meals. The event is sponsored by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, New York’s local chapters and all the dedicated school transportation vendors throughout New York. For more information or a registration form, visit www.nyapt.org.
Question of the Month
In your opinion, what should be the penalty for illegally passing a stopped school bus? Training, in addition to a fine
I think when people pass a bus with loading lights on they should pay a fine and also have several hours of in-service training to learn just what the lights are all about. I did a lot of research on this very subject. I have spoken to the parent-teacher organization and written several articles in the paper. It helped a little bit. Children, until around the age of 10 or so, have tunnel vision and only see what is directly in front of them.
School bus operator
Monroe County Board of Education
Union, W. Va.
Community service levied
Financial penalties are a poor choice because wealthy people are not hurt by them as much as poorer people. Likewise, with a loss of license, wealthy people can just hire someone to drive them around. Good old community service is the way to go. You cannot pass that off on anyone. Oh, and by the way I have a lot of buses that need to be washed.
Franklin Township Public Schools
Somerset, N.J. Penalties alone don’t help
The penalty should fit the crime! If no children are crossing the street toward or away from the school bus, why are the flashing red lights and stop signal arm even activated? The fewer times the red lights are used, the fewer opportunities the motoring public has to break the law. If in fact we want to provide maximum protection to all school students while crossing a street during the loading/unloading process, then only use the red lights and stop arm at that time. Additionally, require the driver or a monitor to act as a crossing guard during the student crossing process. Do you really think that any penalty will ever prevent a motorist from illegally passing a stopped school bus? For the most part, the drivers who pass the school bus don’t even realize what they have done until it’s too late. Indeed they may not do it again, but it may already be too late to save a life. Having said that, perhaps requiring the guilty party to attend a school bus driver training class or pay a $500 penalty, plus providing a couple of school bus driver candidates for the local school transportation provider might help.
Director of Marketing Development and Government Relations
Laidlaw Education Services
Three strikes, you’re out!
First offense: $250 fine. Second offense: $500 fine, up to one year community service, one year probation and up to one year license suspension. Third offense: This person is entirely stupid and should never be allowed to operate any type of motor vehicle for the remainder of his or her life!
School bus driver
Gallia County Local Schools
D.C. mass transit caters to students
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new pass that allows students to ride the Metrobus and Metrorail to get to school has been introduced in the nation’s capital. The Smartstudent Pass costs $20 per month and is good for unlimited rides on D.C.’s bus and rail lines to school and school-related activities. According to D.C. Mass Transit, approximately 20,000 students rely on public transportation to get to and from school. Traditional yellow school bus service is available only to special-education students. A combination of parental concern over costs and the labor-intensive paperwork associated with student use of tokens, tickets and fare cards spurred the creation of the Smartstudent Pass, said D.C. Mass Transit spokesman Douglas Stallworth. Previously, students had to purchase Metrobus tokens or Metrorail fare cards in two-week increments at an average price of 55 cents a ride. These tokens did not allow weekend use. In comparison, the more streamlined Smartstudent Pass is bought only once a month for unlimited use, including weekends. Students simply flash the pass to Metrobus drivers or insert it into Metrorail fare gates for access. Students must be under 19 years of age (special-education students under 23) and reside in and attend school in D.C. to be eligible. Sales of the pass have been brisk, Stallworth said, with more than 500 passes in use during the first few days of availability in January. “A lot of the parents are saying, ‘This is the best thing,’” said Stallworth.
Animated tire spreads bus safety message
CHICAGO — In Illinois these days, children in grades K-3 are seeing and hearing a four-foot, walking, talking teal-colored tire as he delivers the gospel of school bus safety. And if their initial reaction means anything, the tire seems to be getting through to them. Toby Tire is the steel-belted school bus safety mascot put into play by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. As a former educator in Chicago Public Schools for more than three decades, White understands the effectiveness of using animated characters to drive lessons home to children. In a typical appearance with his school bus safety messenger, White yields a generous portion of his time to allow Toby Tire to address an assembly of young children. Afterward, White and his favorite tire trade questions and answers in what has to be an unusual setting for an elected state official. “Toby,” White asks, “what should a child do if he or she drops their lunch or a book bag under the bus?” “Oh, Mr. White,” responds Toby, “that’s the most important lesson of all. Children should never, ever reach under the school bus to retrieve anything. The tires are the most dangerous part of the bus. Once the kids get off the bus, they need to get away from the bus.” “Toby, you the man!” Typically, the kids roar with laughter and applause. Toby Tire was developed by Ted Randall, a former director of student transportation for the Illinois State Board of Education. During White’s 1998 campaign for secretary of state (the office responsible for licensing drivers and vehicles in Illinois), White used Toby Tire to demonstrate to voters what he would do for student transportation. The free-standing animatrons are wireless and loaded with high-tech gear that enables Toby Tire to walk parade routes and talk by way of programmed messages loaded onto CD-ROM and broadcast over a powerful built-in speaker system. The animatron’s audio format also allows for manual override. Custom-built by Robotronics Inc. of Springville, Utah, Toby Tire is powered by a standard motorcycle battery and is capable of walking a parade route up to five miles. Best of all, Illinois taxpayers didn’t have to foot the bill for Toby’s construction. The animatrons were built thanks to a corporate gift from International Truck and Engine Corp. The 100-pound robot is hauled by an 18-passenger Blue Bird school bus donated by Midwest Transit of Kankakee, Ill. The bus has been reconfigured so that it conforms to all state and federal regulations. In addition to educational messages for the children, Toby is programmed to deliver safety messages designed for school bus drivers, teachers and parents groups.
Community group calls for safety improvements
MARTINEZ, Ga. — Friends and neighbors of a 5-year-old girl who was struck and killed by her own school bus on Jan. 9 have organized what they’re calling a “white ribbon campaign” to improve school bus safety at Columbia County Schools in Appling, Ga. The campaign was formed in the wake of the death of Aleana Johnson, who was run over by her school bus while crossing in front of the vehicle. Her death has stirred anger among parents, who are asking the school board to assign monitors to each bus. They also have complained about late arrivals and lack of student discipline on buses. The community group, which calls itself “Friends of Aleana,” is collecting signatures to petition the board of education to improve safety conditions on school buses. Several members of the group pleaded for changes at the board’s Jan. 23 meeting. Superintendent Tommy Price said the board would review results of ongoing investigations into the fatal accident before considering any changes to the existing bus system. For more information about Friends of Aleana, visit www.aleanajohnson.com.