SAN DIEGO — The dangers of distracted driving was a key topic of discussion during the California Association of School Transportation Officials’ (CASTO) 45th annual conference, held here over the weekend.
Syd Muzzy, a traffic safety education consultant and driver behavior specialist, headed Saturday’s keynote address, where he spoke to attendees about dangerous driving behaviors and the consequences they can have.
Nancy Good, a driver instructor at Poway (Calif.) Unified School District, told SBF that she enjoyed the CASTO conference overall, but she found Muzzy’s keynote especially powerful, and she learned a lot from it.
“He was funny and engaging — it was a great presentation, and he gave me some great ideas,” Good said. “He did a $1 bill exercise where he had someone come up, folded the $1 in half and showed how it was stiff, and then he had the guy try to grab it from him as he was yelling. He then talked about how, when we get distracted, we can’t grab things and we can’t maneuver as easily.
"Another thing he did that was extremely helpful for me, as an instructor, and I’m planning to use it in my training, is, he had a steering wheel, he put it on a table and had a lady come up to the stage," Good added. "He brought her a bag that had food in it, and he had her grab food while pretending to drive. It showed where her hand was on the steering wheel while she’s trying to look ahead and dig in the bag at the same time. It really showed her level of inattentiveness.”
Muzzy’s presentation was followed by an emotionally charged general session about distracted driving.
The speakers were Shirley Francis, executive director of the Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT), and Matthew Pitt, whose son, Hunter, was fatally struck by a school bus in 2011. Distraction on the part of the school bus driver played a role in the accident.
Francis worked with Hunter’s family to create a video of the tragedy, which was shown during the session. (It was also shown during last fall’s National Association for Pupil Transportation conference, as SBF reported.)
In putting together the video, Francis said, “We wanted to know what this tragedy meant to them [Hunter’s family], and how it impacted them.”
She added that MAPT is working to make more copies of the DVD, with a goal of having at least one copy distributed to each state in the U.S.
In an afternoon session, Donna Anderson, an instructor and field coordinator with the California Department of Education, provided training tips specific to making left-hand turns safely and correctly in school buses, and she drew from lessons learned in fatal accidents.
She noted that complacency is a “huge factor” in crashes, and to avoid this, the driver must do and know the following in making a turn: 1) adjust the bus’ mirrors properly 2) look around the mirrors to avoid blind spots 3) look around for fixed and moveable objects in an intersection 4) know the turning capabilities of the vehicle. Anderson said that following these steps will also help in making a safe turn.
Later on Saturday, the approximately 300 attendees had an opportunity to speak with officials from more than 30 industry suppliers at the vendor show, and they could also board the buses that were on the show floor.
Sunday morning’s general session included a panel of four pupil transportation officials who spoke about what they learned from fatal accidents and situations involving school buses.
The panelists were Dave Randall, retired from Montebello (Calif.) Unified School District, Mike Patton, director of transportation services at Capistrano (Calif.) Unified School District, Shirley Francis and Clarence Hutchison, retired from Los Angeles Unified School District.
For instance, in discussing an incident at his former operation, Randall said he learned the importance of paying attention to small problems.
“When drivers bring you notes about small problems, it’s a precursor to what could be a big issue,” he said. “You want to stop small things when you hear about them, and, also, keep good records on what you do.”
Also on Sunday, Syd Muzzy spoke about teaching strategies and how to give effective presentations. He said that teaching with emotion is important.
“If you teach with emotion, people will listen because they’ll feel your conviction,” he explained.
Muzzy said that instructors should also pay attention to what type of learners their trainees are, and he said that humor — used when appropriate — can be an effective tool for training because it can engage people.
More details about this year’s CASTO conference will appear in the June issue of SBF.
The 2014 CASTO conference is scheduled to be held in Monterey, Calif., April 12 to 14.
To view shots taken during this year's conference, as well as shots from around the host hotel, check out our new photo gallery.