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July 29, 2010  |   Comments (5)   |   Post a comment

20 Ways to Bolster Safety

From loading procedures to proper footwear to student discipline, pupil transportation professionals share their tips for reducing risks on and off the bus.

by Tom McMahon, Claire Atkinson and Kelly Roher

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A private school near Kings Canyon Unified School District uses this photo to remind parents to stay out of bus loading areas.

9. Keep loading zones free of cars

If motorists enter school bus loading and unloading zones, it can be dangerous for both students and drivers. John Clements, director of transportation at Kings Canyon Unified School District in Reedley, Calif., says that a private school near his district recognized this and staged the photo above as a reminder to parents to stay out of the zones.

“It is also a good safety reminder that as school facilities personnel and administrators plan for new schools and remodel existing schools, parents’ cars should not mix with school buses in the same loading and unloading areas,” Clements says.

10. Don’t succumb to distraction
Staying focused and avoiding distractions are critical in operating a school bus.

Lawrence of Fairport Central School District recommends limiting the use of radio communications. “This applies to both dispatchers and drivers,” he says. “Relaying unnecessary information back and forth clogs up the  radio channel and tends to force drivers to mentally tune out the chatter.”

Chris Telarico, transportation supervisor at Santa Ana (Calif.) Unified School District, says that, unfortunately, the most common distractions are things that need to be dealt with, such as an unruly child or a complaining parent.

“If a parent comes up to the bus to complain about students trampling her lawn, we need to ask her to wait until the students have finished unloading so we can give her our undivided attention,” Telarico says. “Or if you have students having problems on the bus while you are driving, you need to pull over and deal with the situation. When you finish with the problem at hand, take the time to reassess what is happening around you — checking mirrors, traffic, students, etc.”

Montana state pupil transportation director Maxine Mougeot adds that to avoid fatigue, drivers should take a break every three hours on long trips.

11. Rewarding good bus behavior
Kenny Adams, a bus driver for Covington (Ohio) Exempted Village Schools, started a program in which he presents a monthly Safe Rider award to his elementary school passengers. At the end of each month, the students who best follow the rules — staying seated while on the bus, walking and not running to board, being polite and helpful, and keeping the bus tidy — are awarded certificates.

"This has made my bus a lot safer, as students are quieter and help each other more, and just [behave] a lot safer when around buses," Adams says. "They all look forward to the last day of the month to see who wins."

Christopher Zeitvogel of the DoDEA-Pacific Misawa Student Transportation Office says that bus attendants review safety standards with students on the first day of school.

12. Relay bus safety rules, laws
Communicating bus rules with students, particularly new riders, is key to maintaining an orderly, safe environment on and around the bus. Christopher Zeitvogel, student transportation manager at the DoDEA-Pacific Misawa (Japan) Student Transportation Office, says that his operation has drafted a list of safety standards that students must adhere to.

Several of the standards are:
• Wait for the bus well back from the curb. Do not approach the bus until
it is stopped and the door is opened. Never run towards your bus as the
bus arrives.
• Students are not permitted to talk to friends or pass items through the windows, nor run after or chase the bus.
• Pens and pencils may cause injury if the bus hits a bump, and so are not allowed to be used on the buses.

“On the first day of school, the bus attendant goes over these rules with
their riders,” Zeitvogel says.

Bus safety information and laws should also be shared with the public. David Twiddy, transportation director at Dare County Schools in Nags Head, N.C., has made a practice of running a safety information page in the local papers during the two weeks prior to the start of a new school year.

“It tells everyone to be on the lookout,” Twiddy says. “It also provides the laws dealing with stopped school buses.”

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Read more about: behavior management, bullying, danger zone, distracted driving, evacuation drills, post-trip child check

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I enjoy your web site about safty, as a x schoolbus driver instructor i was suprise that there was no safty input about special need students and how to get them off the bus quickly and safetly in a emergency, the town i drive for has nothing in place for this evacuation,

sebastian silvestro    |    Jun 08, 2011 08:32 AM

Whenever I ask if buses have seat belts, everyone tells me "no." Having seat belts in buses seems to me to be the most effective way of reducing deaths and injuries in accidents. Why are there no seat belts in buses?

Dale Fuller    |    Aug 05, 2010 03:05 PM

I don't know about other districts, but I do know about the five I have worked for in the last twenty five years, and all of the have packed every bus to maximum capacity and beyond, figuring a lot of kids don't ride the bus for one reason or another. These ditricts don't hear the thirteen inch part of 83 passengers . . . this being said, there is no way to keep back seats, or any seats empty. My other comment, on evacuation drills, we have two a year in Massachusetts, and they cannot happen during the school day, just when we drop the kids off, there is no time alloted from class and law says the kids must be in the classroom for the school day.

jjaycedar    |    Aug 04, 2010 04:44 PM

Many of the tips are excellent, some exceptional, and a few elude to the issue but are left wanting, in my opinion. The California crossing model is my favorite most exceptional tip, one I would gladly follow the instant allowed in my state. Unfortunately only Calafornia requires this safe pratice. Would be very interested in hearing from schools that follow the model in states where not manadated and how they did it. It would be my most favored school bus stop tip. Over the years I've collected some most favored tips that are specific and actually do work to help keep the bus environment a safe, calm place for children and also a hostile-free workplace behind the wheel bus drivers. These are my top three: STAY ON TASK: Do not allow disruptive children or others to distract you from the essentials. Establish a safe, calm environment before leaving the school. Offer children that refuse to follow directions, bullies and otherwise disruptive children a warning. When the misbehavior continues offer a seat change. When the child remains persistent instruct to wait outside the bus with a school staff member, and when necessary provide an escort to the school office to resolve the misbehavior prior to riding a school bus again, this while the bus proceeds on schedule. Fast tracking to safer environments for children and a hostile-free workplace for the bus drivers is possible when staying on task. A complete slide presentation with class materials is available free to use in self study, training, and for presentations to school boards. Go to this page in the SBF forums, then to post #14: CHILDREN LEFT SLEEPING: Some 100,000 children have been left sleeping on the school buses over the past two decades, probably more. Although a child left sleeping is a missed procedure issue, not a safety issue, this one missed procedure is the one that brings outrageousness to new highs with each passing yea

James Kraemer    |    Jul 29, 2010 05:16 PM

I have a question about the drivers in California personally crossing their students. They turn off the bus, grab the hand-held stop sign, etc.; what about "pumping down"? This could be an accident waiting to happen.

Marda Neth    |    Jul 29, 2010 01:54 PM

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