Transportation managers know what’s at stake with inadequate mirror-usage training. Finding the right mirror systems, and providing solid instruction on what to look for in and outside of the danger zone, can mean the difference between life and death or severe property liability.
Mirror grid stations
Most safety trainers agree that teaching the proper use of mirrors to new school bus drivers can be a challenge. Many drivers have a tendency to want to see more than what’s necessary or to look over their shoulders as they would in passenger vehicles instead of using the mirrors. Trainers combat these poor driving habits using mirror grids. Mirror grids incorporate the safety protocol mandated in FMVSS 111 and specified in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) school bus field-of-view test.
NHTSA’s guidelines specify placement of the test cylinders around a school bus. Drivers adjust their mirrors to attain maximum visibility of these cylinders, which can represent people or objects that may surround a school bus, especially in the danger zone.
Driver training methods
Owego-Appalachin Central School District in New York recently purchased four new Thomas buses — three FS 65s and a C2. Anthony Quaranta, supervisor of transportation, spec’d Rosco mirrors on all four buses. Rosco provided the district with a diagram of what drivers should see through their mirrors. The diagram or grid is painted in multiple colors that correlate with the size of a bus. For instance, if you pull a transit-style bus into the mirror grid, you might use the yellow spots or cylinders.
“We have the grid painted on the ground in the middle of our parking lot,” Quaranta says.
During training, Quranta will usually have one trainer on the bus and one outside the bus, while a mechanic stands outside the bus with a wrench in hand to adjust mirrors according to a driver’s instructions.
At Temple (Texas) Independent School District, where Walter Prothro is director of transportation, drivers go through two sets of training that reinforce proper mirror use. Both training sessions — the roadeo course and the student loading station — take place at the beginning of the school year and incorporate training techniques that emphasize specific locations around the bus that should be seen through the mirrors.
Prothro suggests trainers go a step further and have drivers exit the bus to get an on-the-ground perspective.
“We ask trainees to get behind the bus in the dead spots and have somebody in the driver’s seat yell when they can see the trainee,” says Prothro. “The trainee can then see how far away or close to a bus he or she needs to be in order to be seen by the driver.”