Too many children have died because motorists have decided that the flashing red lights and extended stop arm of a school bus are merely a suggestion. Many of these same motorists show the same disdain for traffic lights and pedestrians in crosswalks. They can’t be bothered with rules and regulations because they have to get to the office for an 8 a.m. conference call. Or to their child’s soccer game. Or to the dry cleaner before it closes. I’m tired of the excuses. We all have deadlines and commitments and places that we have to be 20 minutes ago. We drive to work with mental images of dayrunners jammed with tasks yet undone, and we return home 10 hours later with mental images of dayrunners jammed with tasks yet undone. We’re busy people. Just like the thousands of motorists who pass stopped school buses each day. The enemy, indeed, is us.
Take a safety break
As a school transportation professional, you cannot afford to be so busy that you don’t pay attention to safety concerns. While the odds are good that your operation will not suffer a serious injury accident this year — even if you do nothing to improve safety — that’s due to the relative rarity of those types of accidents. Rather than relying on favorable odds, you should constantly be prodding yourself to commit to the following statement: "This school bus operation can be made safer." This simple sentence doesn’t require a leap of faith; you know it’s true. There are hundreds of ways to improve your safety margins. Two articles in this issue, "Slam the Brakes on Stop-Arm Runners" and "Invigorate Your Driver Training Program", describe some innovative safety strategies that other fleets have implemented. You can probably think of a dozen safety improvements on your drive home tonight. These improvements don’t have to be blockbusters. In fact, the smaller they are, the easier they are to implement. For example, reducing staff turnover helps to improve safety, right? And improving morale helps to reduce turnover. Ergo, anything that improves morale also improves safety. Taking a few minutes to chat with drivers, especially those who don’t normally burn your ear on a regular basis, is an investment in your safety program. (During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tenure as president, he used "fireside chats" to boost the morale of the nation.) Besides, you might learn something from these chats that could lead to a more substantial safety benefit. Or, you might want to remind drivers to make sure that their mirrors are adjusted properly and to encourage mechanics to (graciously) agree to help drivers make these adjustments. Several children were run over by their own buses last year. In some cases, these types of accidents can be avoided with a minor adjustment of the mirror system. Drivers who have become complacent about their mirror setup and usage can easily be lulled into a false sense of security.
Good ideas deserve a reward
One more suggestion. Create a program that rewards staff members who suggest simple and effective ways to improve safety. In other words, bring your staff into the loop. Provide incentives — such as gift certificates for movies or meals — and create a committee to evaluate the proposals. Using your staff as a resource to improve safety makes a great deal of sense. It could allow you to cross off a few more items on your to-do list and focus on improving other aspects of your operation. It might even allow you to drive home without a mental image of your dayrunner.