CLEVELAND — The School Bus Safety Co. (SBSC) has launched a nationwide initiative to reduce school bus-related child fatalities from an average of 12 per year to zero.
According to Jeff Cassell, president of SBSC, the school bus is by far the safest form of land transportation, but 83 children have died in bus-related accidents in the last seven years.
“Even one fatality is unacceptable,” Cassell said. “If your child is killed, the statistics mean nothing. We need to do everything we can to get to zero.”
Since 2010, SBSC has provided for free to districts more than 4,000 copies of Danger Zones, a comprehensive program for school bus drivers.
However, company officials said more effort is needed in four key areas — bus drivers, school buses, other drivers and kids — to reduce the number of bus-related fatalities to zero.
The company recommends that every school bus driver complete the Danger Zones training program. It is available at SBSC's website, www.schoolbussafetyco.com.
The company also recommends that every school bus be fitted with an automatic crossing gate to keep children from stepping too close to the front of the bus.
Many fatalities occur due to motorists illegally passing stopped school buses. SBSC said that some motorists pass stopped buses because they don’t know any better. For its part, the company said it will encourage newspapers, radio and television stations and other media outlets to spread the word and remind everyone that the law requires motorists to stop when a bus is stopped with its red lights flashing, and it is imperative to ensuring students’ safety.
To help kids better understand their role in school bus safety, SBSC has released three new educational programs for children of all ages: pre-kindergarten through second grade, grades 3 to 5 and grades 6 and above.
“The younger children aren’t careless, they’re carefree,” the company said in a statement. “Children under [7 years old] are three times more likely to die in a school bus incident than older groups. We need to teach these kids to respect the bus and understand how dangerous it can be.”
Cassell recalled that during his 21 years overseeing safety for a school bus contractor, there were 38 child fatalities.
“I remember every one,” he said. “We analyzed these accidents and found that they were usually caused by multiple factors. We need every school district and contractor to focus on all four areas. Together, we can go from 12 to zero!”