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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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5. Bus drivers signaling students
Many in the industry recommend the use of a signal procedure for safe street crossings and urge parents to educate their children about road safety.

“I think too many times, parents take for granted that a school bus is invincible and nothing bad will happen,” says Amy Noggle, transportation director for Wayne Trace Local Schools in Haviland, Ohio. “Make sure parents are educated in the dangers of [the road] and that they reinforce the safety rules when children are young.”

At Waupaca (Wis.) School District, “If children must cross the street, they are to do so only with the driver directing them,” Transportation Director Lee Nowicki says.

Chloe Williams, vice president at B.R. Williams Inc. in Woodstown, N.J., describes her company’s crossing procedure.

“The students look directly at the driver, the driver checks and double checks that all traffic is stopped and then gives the students a thumbs-up. At that point, the students move into and across the road to board the bus.”

Eric Fritz, energy services manager at Escambia County School District in Pensacola, Fla., says that “[the signal system] helps the driver reinforce positive behaviors, and the students learn to trust their bus drivers because they know they are there for the students’ safety.”

In New York, bus drivers use a two-part signal, Fairport Central School District Director of Transportation Peter Lawrence notes. First the thumbs-up signal indicates that the coast is clear, and then the index finger points in the direction to travel.

6. Emphasize turning techniques
When making left turns, drivers should keep their front wheels pointing forward until it is clear to turn, "thus preventing being knocked into oncoming traffic if the bus is rearended," says George Horne, president of Horne Enterprises in Metairie, La.

Drivers should also employ the "rock and roll" maneuver. "Move forward and back, side to side, to ensure you have actually checked all areas for pedestrians or other vehicles that may be hiding in your dead spots," says Allan Jones, state pupil transportation director for Washington.

Continual, correct use of school bus mirror systems — and keeping mirrors adjusted correctly — are key in reducing accidents. "Having the  awareness of your blind spots — behind the mirror itself, for instance — is critical," Jones says.

7. Keep the shop clean
"A clean shop is a safe shop" is the motto of Brad Barker, shop manager at Park City (Utah) School Distict.

Floors should be kept as clean as possible to avoid slipping. Oil and grease should be wiped up when spills occur. Air hoses should be kept clean and leak-free; tools should be clean, orderly and in easy access for the job at hand. Additionally, the work area should be well lighted.

Barker also notes the importance of being careful when working under buses raised on hoists. "Before walking under the bus, look down to  inspect for tripping hazards or open holes at the sliding hoist plates," he says. "Look around for any other hazards, and look up for anything hanging low that you could bump your head on."

8. Be vigilant in seating, discipline
Making sure that students are properly seated is a key safety factor.

"Ensure that passengers are resting fully within the 'safety compartment' of the seat — i.e., there no body parts protruding into the aisle," says  consultant Horne. "If students' buttocks, arms or legs extend beyond the edge of the seat, the seat is overcrowded."

Because student discipline problems can negatively impact others on the bus, they should be addressed swiftly.

Jill Segal, transportation supervisor for Walled Lake (Mich.) Consolidated School District, says that drivers should be the first point of contact with students' parents. "Keep the school administrators in the loop and enlist their help if need be," she adds. "Track the bus violations to monitor improvement."

Drivers at Miller Transportation in Indianapolis compiled a list of discipline tips for the operation's driver handbook that Todd Edwards, school bus operations manager, says they use frequently to help prevent and attend to student discipline problems. Among the tips are:

  • Be very consistent.
  • Intelligence in handling youth consists of thinking faster than they do. If they can out-think you, you are not using your maturity and the advantage of your education and training — you should see possibilities before they become results.

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Read more about: behavior management, bullying, danger zone, distracted driving, evacuation drills, post-trip child check

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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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