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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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17. Addressing bullying
While the school bus industry tends to gauge its safety record by fatalities, many parents look at it another way. This was shown in a North Carolina State University study of parents’ perceptions of school bus transportation.

“Not surprisingly, parents don’t think of safety in terms of fatalities,” North Carolina state pupil transportation director Derek Graham says, referring to the survey results. “Rather, they think in terms of whether or not their child is safe — protected — from things that are unsafe. And at the top of the list is bullying.”

The study found that many parents choose the family car over the school bus because they feel that their child is not well protected from other kids on the bus.

“I don’t pretend to have a magic answer to this problem, but the first step is recognizing that this is a big deal to students and parents,” Graham says. “It needs to be more than a workshop topic for school bus drivers or supervisors; it somehow needs to be entrenched in our overall approach to providing safe transportation for students.”

18. Checking the bus for students
There are many approaches to preventing children from being left on school buses.

Kris Pavolich, transportation manager at Geminus Head Start XXI in Merrillville, Ind., implemented a policy to provide double checks: Children have to be signed on and off the bus by parents, teachers must sign off upon receiving the children, and drivers have to know exactly how many teachers will be delivering children back to the bus at the end of the day.

At Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Pace says that most buses are equipped with child-check reminder systems, but for those that aren’t, drivers are reminded to “walk the bus” during the morning safety announcements. Additionally, the first violation of the child-check policy is a termination offense, he says.

Transportation Supervisor Vicky Guy of Bullhead City (Ariz.) Elementary School District #15 uses a magnetic checkmark sign.

“The driver will walk to the rear of the bus and place the sign in the window,” she explains. “We have a person walk behind all buses. If a sign is not visible, the bus will be checked for children.”

Lake Shore Central School District requires that drivers and monitors wear reflective safety vests whenever they are on the clock.

19. Enhance visibility with vests
To boost safety in school bus lots, some operations require employees to wear reflective safety vests. First Student, the largest school bus contractor in North America, is one of them. Lake Shore Central School District in Angola, N.Y., recently implemented a vest policy after a fatal accident.

In December 2007, Lake Shore bus driver Brenda Chiapetta was walking across the lot to her bus just after 6 a.m. Besides the darkness, there was a driving rain. At the same time, a mechanic was driving a bus into the shop for his first service of the day. The bus struck Chiapetta, killing her instantly.

“This was a traumatic thing for our department and for our school community,” Transportation Supervisor Michael Dallessandro says. In the aftermath, there were many safety-related suggestions “coming at us from all angles, and we did not want to make any knee-jerk reactions.”

This year, the district decided to require that drivers and monitors wear reflective safety vests whenever they are on the clock.

“It’s amazing how well you can see our staff members now in all types of light and weather conditions,” Dallessandro says.

Jill Segal of Walled Lake Consolidated School District says that her staff practices bus evacuations with elementary students three times every year.

20. Offer training early, evacuation drills often
Offering school bus evacuation training for students is essential, particularly at the elementary level. Segal of Walled Lake (Mich.) Consolidated School District recommends practicing three bus evacuations annually with elementary students and establishing a district safety program for the younger elementary students.

“We use puppets and skits with Buster the Bus and go to each elementary in the early fall and do a presentation for grades K-3 in conjunction with our first bus evacuation of the year,” Segal says. “Drivers create it and act in it — it’s very well received by the kids and the staff.”

Maggie Graff, transportation director for Ridgway (Colo.) School District R-2, also encourages beginning a training program with elementary students as soon as possible once the school year begins.

“The kids are ready to do something physical since they have not been required to sit still all summer,” she says.

Also, providing a photo of the driver for each route will help students who are new to the district, Graff says.

Adds Illinois state pupil transportation director Cinda Meneghetti: “We have new students every year, and we need to make sure they receive the safety training. … Plus, we need to keep reiterating it to all students annually so everyone knows what to do in an emergency and how to stay safe.”

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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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