School bus industry puts spotlight on safety

Posted on October 22, 2008

School districts, contractors and state agencies across the U.S. and Canada launched a multitude of campaigns this week to promote safety and recognize the work of school bus drivers.

This week marks the 42nd edition of the annual School Bus Safety Week. The official theme this year is “Stop on Red, Kids Ahead.”

In Florida, the Department of Education and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles asked residents to show their appreciation for pupil transportation professionals and to pay special attention to school buses on the road.

“School buses remain one of the safest methods of transportation for our children,” Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith said. “I encourage all Floridians to join me in thanking the dedicated professionals who go above and beyond to ensure a safe and secure travel experience for our students.”

In Ohio, the Kent City School District issued a reminder to motorists that the law requires them to stop for school buses.

"Ensuring the safety of students as they enter and exit the bus is crucial," Superintendent Joe Giancola said. “We are training our bus drivers to be cautious, but we need help from parents to make sure they watch for school buses stopped to load and unload children.”

The district noted that nearly 80 percent of Ohio students ride on school buses each day, and nearly 17,000 bus drivers, mechanics, trainers, secretaries and supervisors are dedicated to providing safe transportation for children in the state.

First Student urged motorists to avoid cell phone use while driving. “Our nation’s yellow school buses are highly visible and are required to use flashing lights and extended stop arms to warn motorists when children are loading and unloading,” said Gary Catapano, senior vice president of safety for First Student, “But if motorists are distracted by talking on cell phones, they may fail to see or react quickly enough to a slowed or stopped school bus in front of them.”

Last month, a school bus in Marion County, Fla., was struck by a tractor-trailer, killing one student and injuring several others. The truck driver told investigators that he was using his cell phone before crashing into the bus.

In Manitoba, the theme for School Bus Safety Week was differently worded but similar in intent: “Avoid Harm, Obey the Stop Arm.” The province’s Education, Citizenship and Youth department informed the public of the training and licensing that school bus drivers undergo and the many safety features on school buses, such as stop arms, crossing arms, warning lights, roof hatches and anti-lock braking systems.

Durham School Services asked its drivers, monitors and support staff to celebrate the week by wearing a silicone wristband imprinted with the message “Safety at Every Stop” as a constant reminder to put safety first. The company also issued tips for motorists to help ensure the safety of students who are taking the bus or walking to and from school.

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Transportation held a School Bus Safety Week ceremony, in which it recognized 12 students for their winning entries in the state’s 2008 School Bus Safety Poster Contest. The department also presented certificates and governor's citations to six school bus drivers for winning the 2008 Pennsylvania School Bus Driver Safety Competition, which was held in June.

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