13. Be careful if backing is needed
Backing a school bus should be avoided as much as possible, and done very carefully when it becomes necessary.
“Scan the road ahead for any situation that might cause you to back,” Pace of Virginia Beach City Public Schools recommends to drivers. “Only back if you can’t go safely forward.”
Dennis Rothery, director of transportation at the O’Neal School in Southern Pines, N.C., says that he sometimes notices drivers and mechanics looking over their shoulders while backing buses.
“They cannot see what is next to the bus — they must learn to back using their mirrors,” Rothery says. “I have them sit in the driver’s seat and try to see me on the right side by looking over their shoulder. I am 6’5” and cannot be seen by them, but I can see them in the mirror — this proves my point.”
Cyndi Henk, safety trainer at Comal Independent School District in New Braunfels, Texas, adds this advice: “When backing a school bus, always apply your four-way flashers and honk twice before moving, even with the backup beeper going.”
In California, school bus drivers are required to escort children across the street.14. Driver escort ensures safety
School bus passengers are most vulnerable when they’re outside of the vehicle — particularly when they need to cross the street. In California, school bus drivers are required to escort children across the street to ensure their safety.
State pupil transportation director John Green says that there has not been a documented case of a student in California being killed while being escorted across the street by a bus driver.
The state requirement, which has been in place since the 1950s, is for pre-K through eighth-grade students, but Green says that most school districts also make it a policy for high school students.
Here’s how the procedure works: When the bus driver arrives at a stop where a student must cross, the driver shuts down the bus, sets the brake and takes the key — while leaving the red lights flashing. The driver then takes a hand-held stop sign — the same type that school crossing guards use — and walks with it to the center of the road. When the driver establishes that it’s safe to cross, he or she signals the student to do so.
“It’s a fairly simple procedure,” Green says. “It’s about adding the adult human element — getting the driver out there in the street.”
Ron Kinney, a school transportation consultant and former California state director, also recommends the escort procedure. He reminds drivers to “be sure to check traffic in both directions before entering the roadway. Cross the pupils only when it is safe to do so.”
15. Maintain accountability
Ron Love, state pupil transportation director for Delaware, offers this advice for school bus drivers: “Drive as you would if your supervisor, a law enforcement officer or parent was on board.”
Along those lines, Love says that drivers should communicate road or bus stop condition changes and suspicious activities to supervisors.
Donald Sexstone of Durham School Services gives safety messages on the radio each
morning.16. Give tips, avoid complacency
Giving school bus drivers a quick tip over the two-way radio every morning is a good way to keep safety on their minds.
“Pick a time that all the buses can hear your message,” says Donald Sexstone, customer service manager for Durham School Services in Rochester, N.Y.
Sexstone pulls many of his daily messages from a school bus safety handbook or state regulations. An example: “Keep your eyes continually moving. Scan for hazards all around your bus — in front, to the sides and behind.”
Venus Hart, transportation director at Lake County School District in Leadville, Colo., stresses the importance of constantly thinking about safety.
“There are some situations that you can’t be prepared for, but if you have the training and follow logical steps — judgment calls — everything should work out,” Hart says.
Maryland state pupil transportation director Leon Langley says that “becoming complacent is a recipe for disaster.” He offers this quote from recently deceased coaching great John Wooden:
“It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.”