AUSTIN, Texas — Eanes Independent School District's (ISD) transportation department and the district's Office of Safety and Risk Management recently kicked off the "Be Seen, Be Safe" campaign, an innovative project to improve elementary school student safety as they wait for their buses in the morning.
Transportation Director Timothy Wysong told SBF in an interview that the primary reason for implementing the campaign was the potential safety hazards presented by the landscape and terrain in southwest Austin.
"The mornings are dark and it's tough out there. There are rolling hills and winding roads. We have very few sidewalks and curbs and there a lot of overhanging oak trees. The reality is that a driver's line of sight is pretty limited," Wysong explained. "A lot of the children are very difficult to see, especially if it's a rainy or foggy morning and I felt that it was a real safety concern."
As part of the campaign, round, flashing 2-inch LED lights were purchased from 4imprint Inc. School bus drivers distributed the lights to about 1,700 elementary school students earlier this week. Parents were asked to attach the lights to their children's backpacks or jackets and ensure that the students turn them on when they head out in the morning to go to their bus stops. Once the students board their buses, the drivers ask the students to turn off the lights.
Wysong came up with the idea to give LED lights to the students as a way to make them more visible while he was driving to work early in the morning. He said a cyclist had similar LEDs attached to his bicycle and as a result, Wysong saw him a mile away.
"We targeted the elementary school students for two reasons — their age and [because] our early morning pick-ups are elementary school students," Wysong added.
In addition to distributing the lights to students, they will be available for $1 to $2 at stores on school campuses where the students buy school supplies in the event that they lose or break them. Wysong said that the total cost of the project came to about $2,000. The lights were purchased using money from the transportation department's budget and a Texas Association of School Boards grant.
Eanes ISD's "Be Seen, Be Safe" campaign also involves encouraging parents to have their children wear light-colored clothing, stand in groups at bus stops, stay at least 10 feet from the roadway until the bus comes to a complete stop and use backpacks that have reflective material on them.
Next month, the transportation department plans to release a school bus safety workbook designed by Wysong for students in kindergarten through second grade to take home and review with their parents. Wysong said the book covers such topics as how to wait for the bus, how to properly board and disembark the bus and how to ride properly.
He also noted that the response to the program from parents and the pupil transportation community within and outside of Texas as been enthusiastic.
"I've been in transportation for over 30 years and I don't know everything, but this is something that I would encourage other districts to do," Wysong said. "Your cost-benefit is so tremendous. You just can't lose. I think the program is really going to make waiting for the bus safer for a lot of students."