In the unfortunate event of an accident, no one wants to be caught unprepared. There are the police reports and insurance reports to deal with as well as working with the driver involved on training or retraining, or revising policies.
Some districts ensure they are prepared for such incidents by establishing post-accident procedures committees or teams. These groups typically take pictures of the scene, analyze the data that were gathered after the incident — the police report, photographs, interviews and insurance reports — and the routes, if applicable. Then, they consider alternative routes or examine driver practices and create a plan to prevent future similar incidents.
That plan often includes looking for a training gap in the organization that can be addressed through retraining or revising a policy. Alternately, if the problem was related to driver performance, they will identify the training topic or policy that he or she missed and retrain them, or reevaluate a best practice. Communicating to the driver involved how the accident could have been prevented and using the details of the incident to train all drivers are key.
Proactive measures essential
A post-accident committee or team must be established before it is needed, says Michael Dallessandro, a school transportation consultant and human resources manager for Rural/Metro Medical Services in Buffalo, New York, and former transportation supervisor at Lake Shore Central School District in Angola, New York. Without it, directors may miss gathering valuable data.
Participants should be clearly identified, and a response checklist should be developed, covering what data, such as accident photos, the copy of the drug test, and police and insurance reports, to gather after an accident.
“If you have all that mapped out up front, your committee will be very productive going forward,” Dallessandro says.
Selecting committee members
To get a well-rounded perspective, many committees include a union representative; an employee from the business office or safety risk department; a superintendent or assistant superintendent; a local government representative; fire chief or a police department representative and an insurance company representative.
Although bringing a variety of perspectives and expertise to the table is beneficial, committee or group members have to make a point to work together to overcome the barriers from that expertise, come to some common ground and reach a workable solution. Dallessandro says that sometimes members only look at the accident from the perspective of their background. For instance, he explains, an insurance representative may only review the scenario from the standpoint of risk and preventing loss, and how it will impact insurance coverage, while a transportation director may mainly focus on route changes.
The biggest challenge, says Edd Hennerley, director of transportation at Queen Creek (Ariz.) Unified School District #95, is selecting the right people to conduct the investigations and the follow-up.
Hennerley formed a response team that includes the district’s transportation supervisor, fleet service manager, an office staff member and two technicians, which he says works well. He does not include bus drivers in the team, because he doesn’t think they should be placed in a position to judge their peers.
“[Most] bus drivers are good at what they do, but that doesn’t qualify them to sit in judgment over other [drivers],” Hennerley says. “The challenge is to be impartial, zero in on what happened, because you can’t have a solution until you find the problem.”
Kathleen Furneaux, executive director of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute, agrees.
“Some committees are structured as a punitive board,” she explains. “There are other venues [that] take care of the punitive aspects of an accident. The review committee needs to fill a different space.”
Fairness is another crucial factor, she adds. “I have been involved in accident review committees where the organizations were not holding themselves accountable for their potential contribution to the issues leading up to the accident. If we are to hold drivers accountable, management must be accountable as well.”
Most importantly, Furneaux says, post-accident reviews should be focused on “learning what happened, trying to determine why it happened and then training so it does not happen again.”
1. A good resource for putting a response checklist together is the National Safety Council, which covers different types of accidents and what factors committees should review in determining preventability, says Steve Vales, supervisor of transportation at St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools in Reserve, Louisiana. http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/Resources/Pages/SafetyHealthFactSheets.aspx
2. Make sure your committee has these documents to review: a preliminary accident report from the driver, a copy of the police report, witness statements, an estimate for vehicle repairs and photos of the scene.
3. Edd Hennerley, director of transportation at Queen Creek (Ariz.) Unified School District #95, says that he keeps a digital camera always charged and at the ready for when he needs to go to the scene of an accident.