5. Bus drivers signaling students
Many in the industry recommend the use of a signal procedure for safe street crossings and urge parents to educate their children about road safety.
“I think too many times, parents take for granted that a school bus is invincible and nothing bad will happen,” says Amy Noggle, transportation director for Wayne Trace Local Schools in Haviland, Ohio. “Make sure parents are educated in the dangers of [the road] and that they reinforce the safety rules when children are young.”
At Waupaca (Wis.) School District, “If children must cross the street, they are to do so only with the driver directing them,” Transportation Director Lee Nowicki says.
Chloe Williams, vice president at B.R. Williams Inc. in Woodstown, N.J., describes her company’s crossing procedure.
“The students look directly at the driver, the driver checks and double checks that all traffic is stopped and then gives the students a thumbs-up. At that point, the students move into and across the road to board the bus.”
Eric Fritz, energy services manager at Escambia County School District in Pensacola, Fla., says that “[the signal system] helps the driver reinforce positive behaviors, and the students learn to trust their bus drivers because they know they are there for the students’ safety.”
In New York, bus drivers use a two-part signal, Fairport Central School District Director of Transportation Peter Lawrence notes. First the thumbs-up signal indicates that the coast is clear, and then the index finger points in the direction to travel.
6. Emphasize turning techniques
When making left turns, drivers should keep their front wheels pointing forward until it is clear to turn, "thus preventing being knocked into oncoming traffic if the bus is rearended," says George Horne, president of Horne Enterprises in Metairie, La.
Drivers should also employ the "rock and roll" maneuver. "Move forward and back, side to side, to ensure you have actually checked all areas for pedestrians or other vehicles that may be hiding in your dead spots," says Allan Jones, state pupil transportation director for Washington.
Continual, correct use of school bus mirror systems — and keeping mirrors adjusted correctly — are key in reducing accidents. "Having the awareness of your blind spots — behind the mirror itself, for instance — is critical," Jones says.
7. Keep the shop clean
"A clean shop is a safe shop" is the motto of Brad Barker, shop manager at Park City (Utah) School Distict.
Floors should be kept as clean as possible to avoid slipping. Oil and grease should be wiped up when spills occur. Air hoses should be kept clean and leak-free; tools should be clean, orderly and in easy access for the job at hand. Additionally, the work area should be well lighted.
Barker also notes the importance of being careful when working under buses raised on hoists. "Before walking under the bus, look down to inspect for tripping hazards or open holes at the sliding hoist plates," he says. "Look around for any other hazards, and look up for anything hanging low that you could bump your head on."
8. Be vigilant in seating, discipline
Making sure that students are properly seated is a key safety factor.
"Ensure that passengers are resting fully within the 'safety compartment' of the seat — i.e., there no body parts protruding into the aisle," says consultant Horne. "If students' buttocks, arms or legs extend beyond the edge of the seat, the seat is overcrowded."
Because student discipline problems can negatively impact others on the bus, they should be addressed swiftly.
Jill Segal, transportation supervisor for Walled Lake (Mich.) Consolidated School District, says that drivers should be the first point of contact with students' parents. "Keep the school administrators in the loop and enlist their help if need be," she adds. "Track the bus violations to monitor improvement."
Drivers at Miller Transportation in Indianapolis compiled a list of discipline tips for the operation's driver handbook that Todd Edwards, school bus operations manager, says they use frequently to help prevent and attend to student discipline problems. Among the tips are:
- Be very consistent.
- Intelligence in handling youth consists of thinking faster than they do. If they can out-think you, you are not using your maturity and the advantage of your education and training — you should see possibilities before they become results.