A critical part of our mission here at SCHOOL BUS FLEET is to help our readers do their jobs better. And a critical part of our readers’ jobs is keeping school bus riders safe.
With that in mind, the majority of our news stories and feature articles relate to safety in some way. In many cases, we write about innovative safety practices that school bus operations have implemented and found success with. The expectation here is that other operations might be interested in trying out these bright ideas for themselves.
That notion was confirmed recently by an SBF reader in Ontario.
Earlier this year, the Northwestern Ontario Student Services Consortium (NWOSSC) launched an initiative that increases students’ visibility as they walk to their bus stops.
Under the “Be Seen, Be Safe” program, about 4,000 flashing, reflective amber lights were distributed to children in junior kindergarten through third grade. The lights can be clipped to students’ backpacks or jackets.
Judi Green, general manager for NWOSSC, got the idea for the program after reading about its implementation at Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas. SBF Managing Editor Kelly Roher covered the Eanes initiative in an editorial on bus stop safety that ran in our October 2011 issue and on our Along for the Ride blog.
Green got in touch with Eanes Transportation Director Timothy Wysong, who gave her information that helped to launch the program in Ontario.
“We believed our kids could benefit from this program, especially knowing that we have even less daylight [than Texas], compounded with our extreme weather conditions,” Green told SBF. “To our knowledge, the Be Seen, Be Safe program is one of the first of its kind in Ontario, and possibly Canada.”
NWOSSC runs school buses in snowy, frigid conditions with limited visibility and limited daylight from early November to mid-April.
“Our shortest day is in December, where it would get light around 8:20 a.m. and be dark at about 3:50 p.m.,” Green said.
Also, most of the students whom the consortium serves live in remote and rural areas, and it’s difficult to provide door-to-door service.
“In a lot of cases, students have to get to their bus stops, and I would say that less than 10 percent of our road infrastructure is paved,” Green noted.
Green’s idea to implement the Be Seen, Be Safe program in NWOSSC’s area of service was well received. The four school districts that NWOSSC serves and the school bus companies that it has contracts with all contributed money toward the purchase of the amber lights. The cost of the program for the consortium was around $3,000 to $4,000.
Green said that response to the program from parents and teachers has been positive, and there is potential for implementation at other consortia in Ontario.
“I sent information to my colleagues, and about eight of them contacted us for information on where they could buy the lights,” Green said. “They want to launch a program for their consortia as well.”
Like good news, good ideas travel fast.