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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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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.”

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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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