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July 29, 2010  |   Comments (5)   |   Post a comment

20 Ways to Bolster Safety

From loading procedures to proper footwear to student discipline, pupil transportation professionals share their tips for reducing risks on and off the bus.

by Tom McMahon, Claire Atkinson and Kelly Roher


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Shenandoah County Public Schools unloads just three buses at a time at its largest  campus to minimize the number of students and maximize supervision.

Shenandoah County Public Schools unloads just three buses at a time at its largest campus to minimize the number of students and maximize supervision.

1. Deter speeding
"No need to speed" is a message emphasized at Virginia Beach (Va.) City Public Schools.

"Our drivers are taught that safety trumps schedule at all times," says David Pace, director of transportation services.

To make sure that policy is being heeded, the transportation department uses an unmarked radar car to perform random speed checks.

"We also have GPS on all our buses that allows us to monitor individual buses and their speeds," Pace says.

2. Keep back bus seats empty
For Tom Young, transportation director at Central Springs High School in Manly, Iowa, taking extra precautions to keep students free of injury while they ride buses isn't superfluous.

He has stressed to his drivers to leave the back two sets of seats empty  whenever possible, a tip passed on to him by Max Christensen, executive officer of school transportation at the Iowa Department of Education.

"We try to do so as often as we can," Young says. "It goes back to several bus crashes that I have seen online. Most bus crashes happen from the rear of the bus."

3. Safety in loading, unloading
At Shenandoah County (Va.) Public Schools, buses are unloaded at the district’s largest campus three at a time to allow a minimum number of  students on the ground with the maximum amount of adult supervision, Transportation Supervisor Martin Quigley says.

“We have more than 700 vehicles that come in and out of our largest  campus in the morning, and this creates an environment where accidents can be severe if we do not follow our procedures and keep students’ safety in the forefront.”

At school bus stops, the counting procedure is vital. “Children are the most vulnerable when they are loading and unloading,” says Charlie Hood, Florida state pupil transportation director. “The bus operator must  count and account for every child, every time, at every stop, until each  student is safely out of harm’s way.”

4. Have drivers wear proper shoes
At Sweetwater County School District #2 in Green River, Wyo., Transportation Director Randall Jensen says he often has to tackle the problem of his drivers failing to wear proper footwear while operating their school buses, particularly during the summer months.

Under the policy he has given his drivers, all footwear must have a hard sole, have a covered toe area, and be tied or strapped on tight enough to withstand an impact.

“With all of the problems with pedal misapplication, I think it is very important to have proper footwear when you drive a bus,” Jensen says.

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I enjoy your web site about safty, as a x schoolbus driver instructor i was suprise that there was no safty input about special need students and how to get them off the bus quickly and safetly in a emergency, the town i drive for has nothing in place for this evacuation,

sebastian silvestro    |    Jun 08, 2011 08:32 AM

Whenever I ask if buses have seat belts, everyone tells me "no." Having seat belts in buses seems to me to be the most effective way of reducing deaths and injuries in accidents. Why are there no seat belts in buses?

Dale Fuller    |    Aug 05, 2010 03:05 PM

I don't know about other districts, but I do know about the five I have worked for in the last twenty five years, and all of the have packed every bus to maximum capacity and beyond, figuring a lot of kids don't ride the bus for one reason or another. These ditricts don't hear the thirteen inch part of 83 passengers . . . this being said, there is no way to keep back seats, or any seats empty. My other comment, on evacuation drills, we have two a year in Massachusetts, and they cannot happen during the school day, just when we drop the kids off, there is no time alloted from class and law says the kids must be in the classroom for the school day.

jjaycedar    |    Aug 04, 2010 04:44 PM

Many of the tips are excellent, some exceptional, and a few elude to the issue but are left wanting, in my opinion. The California crossing model is my favorite most exceptional tip, one I would gladly follow the instant allowed in my state. Unfortunately only Calafornia requires this safe pratice. Would be very interested in hearing from schools that follow the model in states where not manadated and how they did it. It would be my most favored school bus stop tip. Over the years I've collected some most favored tips that are specific and actually do work to help keep the bus environment a safe, calm place for children and also a hostile-free workplace behind the wheel bus drivers. These are my top three: STAY ON TASK: Do not allow disruptive children or others to distract you from the essentials. Establish a safe, calm environment before leaving the school. Offer children that refuse to follow directions, bullies and otherwise disruptive children a warning. When the misbehavior continues offer a seat change. When the child remains persistent instruct to wait outside the bus with a school staff member, and when necessary provide an escort to the school office to resolve the misbehavior prior to riding a school bus again, this while the bus proceeds on schedule. Fast tracking to safer environments for children and a hostile-free workplace for the bus drivers is possible when staying on task. A complete slide presentation with class materials is available free to use in self study, training, and for presentations to school boards. Go to this page in the SBF forums, then to post #14: http://www.schoolbusfleet.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=20089 CHILDREN LEFT SLEEPING: Some 100,000 children have been left sleeping on the school buses over the past two decades, probably more. Although a child left sleeping is a missed procedure issue, not a safety issue, this one missed procedure is the one that brings outrageousness to new highs with each passing yea

James Kraemer    |    Jul 29, 2010 05:16 PM

I have a question about the drivers in California personally crossing their students. They turn off the bus, grab the hand-held stop sign, etc.; what about "pumping down"? This could be an accident waiting to happen.

Marda Neth    |    Jul 29, 2010 01:54 PM

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