Arlington (Va.) Public Schools Director of Transportation Gregory Sutton (left) communicates with his drivers regularly to keep abreast of potential hazards on their routes. He’s pictured with Justin Kirby, one of the operation’s swing/lead bus drivers.
With the nation’s highways rapidly expanding, most notably in rural communities, and the increase in vehicular and pedestrian traffic, school bus drivers face a great challenge today while on their routes and at their stops: maneuvering safely through the various hazards along the way. In this article, I will discuss how you as a transportation official can help regular and substitute bus drivers recognize and report new or changing hazards so that they are on the safest routes possible, and students have safe locations to meet the bus.
To assist managers in establishing safe routes, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), under a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, released a report that provides guidelines on how transportation officials can implement procedures for identifying and evaluating route hazards. (Go to www.nasdpts.org and click on “Operations,” and then “Routes and Stops.”)
Developing a program for this effort not only involves the school bus driver, it includes such outside agencies as local and state police, department of transportation personnel and local emergency operations centers.
What is a route hazard?
A route hazard can best be described as a driving hazard — either fixed or non-fixed — that is encountered while operating a school bus. A fixed route hazard is one that can be readily identified. Some examples of fixed route hazards are railroad grade crossings, bridges, tunnels, overpasses/underpasses, dangerous intersections, steep downgrades, curves and pedestrian areas.
A non-fixed route hazard is one that occurs without advance warning, such as unexpected animal crossings, downed power lines, fallen trees or rocks and inclement weather conditions, such as flooded roadways, black ice or snowstorms.
School bus route hazards are grouped into two distinct categories: 1. driving hazards encountered while operating a school bus, whether they are fixed or non-fixed, and 2. school bus loading zone hazards. Drivers encounter these hazards around school bus stops, and they include narrow streets and lack of shoulders and/or sidewalks.