ZANESVILLE, Ohio — Prompted by a discussion about danger zone fatalities during the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services’ conference last October, filmmaker Thomas Brown has completed a film on the subject that was sponsored by the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation (OAPT).
On One Winter Day opens with a prologue instructing children how to disembark and cross in front of a school bus. The speaker explains the importance of verbal communication between the driver and students, and the importance of non-verbal communication (i.e., students should look at the driver to ensure that they can be seen, watch for the driver’s signal indicating that it is safe to cross, and look both ways prior to crossing the street).
The climax occurs when a young boy disembarks his bus — he walks out in front of it without looking to the left and right, and a motorist hits him.
“The idea is to catch children watching the film completely off guard, like they would be in real life if they [saw] this happen,” Brown explained. “I think it’s going to help teach kids what they’re risking when they don’t pay attention to the driver’s signal.”
The film doesn’t have a tragic ending, however. The protagonist’s classmates learn that he survived the accident, and in an epilogue, the narrator addresses bus safety and the boy who played the protagonist explains what he should’ve done before crossing the street.
Brown cast students who attend an elementary school within Worthington (Ohio) City Schools in the film. George Sontag, the district’s transportation supervisor and an OAPT member, wrote the prologue and epilogue.
Sontag wrote the segments using guidelines provided by the Ohio Legislature and the state Department of Education (DOE). The DOE’s pre-service instructors helped inspire the wording, he added. (Pre-service instructors are assigned to counties in eight regions of Ohio to instruct school bus drivers for their classroom training.)
Brown ran a test screening of the film in mid-April for students in grades 1 through 5, and grade 7, at Zanesville City Schools. The reaction was positive.
“I’m convinced we’ve got something that’s going to stick in kids’ minds,” Brown said, “and hopefully we’re going to prevent some from getting hurt or killed.”
Brown plans to show On One Winter Day to students at school districts throughout the country. At press time, he anticipated that the film would be distributed by mid-May.