With National School Bus Safety Week just around the corner (Oct. 17-21), school districts, contractors and industry associations are gearing up for various activities to observe the event, and they’re also providing tips to students, parents and motorists.
The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) will be reminding everyone why safety is a top priority in the industry. The 2011 theme for School Bus Safety Week is “Be Aware — Know the Danger Zone,” and this year, NSTA is reaching out to the drivers themselves.
Association officials said industry professionals can visit NSTA's Facebook and Twitter pages next week to see personal stories from drivers who competed in the 2011 School Bus Driver International Safety Competition. They’ll share how their students stay safe every week of the year.
In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton issued a proclamation announcing next week as School Bus Safety Week. The proclamation indicates that several state agencies work together to actively promote programs that emphasize school bus safety and seek the cooperation of the state's citizens to comply with Minnesota's school bus transportation laws.
At a local level, Radnor Township School District in Wayne, Pa., will join forces with the Radnor Township Police Department on Oct. 19 for the 15th Annual Operation Safe Stop to raise public awareness of the dangers of illegally passing a stopped school bus when children are boarding or exiting.
Led by the district’s director of transportation, Burt Blackburn, school bus drivers will be on the lookout for vehicles illegally passing their buses. When possible, the drivers will relay a violator’s information to the police so a citation can be issued. Blackburn will also send the gathered information to Harrisburg, the state capital, so it can be included in a school bus safety report.
Officials said the coordinated effort typically catches two or three violations, which is a significant amount when extrapolated throughout the 181-day school year.
In Brockville, Ontario, Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO), a newly created transportation consortium for the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario and the Upper Canada District School Board, will join other transportation consortiums and school transportation companies across the province to celebrate the importance of bus safety next week.
"Ensuring the safety of students as they enter and exit the bus is crucial," STEO General Manager and Chief Administrative Officer Ron Cotnam said. "We are training our bus drivers to be cautious, but we need help from parents and motorists to make sure they watch for school buses stopped to load and unload children. No issue is so urgent that motorists cannot wait for a school bus."
Bus contractors throughout the region will be conducting contests and promotions in conjunction with local schools in support of School Bus Safety Week, and student safety. Police departments throughout the region will also be diligent in ensuring drivers are following all rules and laws, officials said.
Also in Canada, school bus contractor Stock Transportation (as well as its U.S. affiliate, Durham School Services) is using School Bus Safety Week as an opportunity to remind students and motorists of important school bus safety tips.
Among Durham and Stock Transportation’s tips for students are to stay out of the danger zone around school buses by keeping 10 “giant” steps away from the bus at all times. Officials also urge students to be alert around school buses and to not send text messages, talk on cell phones or listen to MP3 players.
Motorists are urged to use extra caution when driving near school buses or in a school zone.
To further increase the safety of its buses, Durham School Services and Stock Transportation are equipping their fleets with the latest in GPS technology.
“This advanced GPS technology provides real-time benefits that enhance our daily safety procedures and ensure the students we transport are safe and secure on their ride to and from school every day," said Michele McDermott, senior vice president of safety and human resources for Durham School Services and Stock Transportation.
Student Transportation Inc. of Wall, N.J., is also offering tips to parents, students and motorists. For instance, the company advises parents to check their children’s clothing and backpack to make sure there are no loose drawstrings or long straps that could get caught in a bus door.
The company is also establishing a Wall of Fame in its executive offices to recognize employees who have decades of accident-free driving, have performed courageous acts or have gone the extra mile in their jobs. Nominations will be collected throughout the year and, beginning next October, Wall of Fame recipients will be named each year during School Bus Safety Week.
"The dedicated men and women of the Student Transportation family are the foundation of our safety culture. The Wall of Fame gives us a special opportunity to recognize and honor their service," said Don Weir, Student Transportation's director of passenger safety and compliance. "Some of our drivers have driven accident-free for more than 35 years; others have been involved in service to individuals and communities that is nothing short of heroic. School Bus Safety Week presents the perfect opportunity for this special recognition."
Furthermore, each of the company's 107 locations will reinforce this year's School Bus Safety Week theme with programs and events customized to their region. Plans range from local school poster, poetry and writing contests to staging a high-tech school bus and driver in a shopping mall to educate the public on the newest safety features available.
Finally, First Student Inc., headquartered in Cincinnati, has partnered with the National Safety Council to create a school bus safety website that provides important safety information and tips for parents, motorists and students.
"To keep students, motorists and their passengers safe, we're asking everyone on the road to pay attention, avoid distractions and watch for the yellow school buses on roadways," said Gary Catapano, senior vice president for Safety at First Student.
Each year, the National Association for Pupil Transportation sponsors National School Bus Safety Week and a student poster contest as a way to bring attention to school bus safety. This year, the association’s poster contest theme is "I See the Driver — The Driver Sees Me!" to remind students to be aware of the school bus danger zone.
Students are encouraged to draw this theme through the end of this month. This year’s poster contest theme will become the 2012 National School Bus Safety Week theme.