File photo courtesy School Bus Safety Co.

File photo courtesy School Bus Safety Co.

As you may have heard, we here in Southern California were recently shaken up by a couple of earthquakes. Although they were felt across a significant distance, overall damages and injuries were minimal outside of the epicenter, just a little northeast of the town of Ridgecrest.

Still, it was a powerful reminder of the importance of ensuring safe practices and emergency planning are in place at your workplace or operation. (No doubt our California readers conduct and participate in earthquake safety drills with staff and students every year.)

That is not to discount day-to-day safety practices. And one of the most important, as we were reminded recently by the results from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services’ (NASDPTS’) annual survey on stop-arm running incidents, is loading and unloading students.

Nearly 131,000 school bus drivers hailing from 39 states participated in NASDPTS’ ninth annual survey. Talking of shake-ups: those drivers reported that over 95,000 vehicles passed their buses illegally on a single day earlier this year. That number is even greater than last year’s shocking total of more than 83,000 vehicles running stop arms.

The association said that these survey results indicate that significantly more than 17 million violations occur over the course of a 180-day school year, since not all school bus drivers participated in the survey.

Although we all agree that the motoring public needs to be more cautious — always slowing down when the bus’s yellow lights flash and stopping when the red warning lights and stop arm are deployed — bus drivers can also help mitigate the number of dangerous incidents by following
safe and consistent loading and unloading practices.

California driver instructor Sabine Konrad reminds readers in our story on the state’s loading and unloading practices to stay focused during the entire process, use precise timing with the lights and the entrance door, and check the danger zone for students multiple times. She also details the practice of escorting students as they cross roadways, which is done exclusively in California.

And this escorting process gets a thumbs-up from Ted Finlayson-Schueler, president of Safety Rules in Syracuse, N.Y., and pupil transportation safety consultant and expert witness. He notes that the state’s crossing system “has been successful for decades.” (More to his point, in our story on safe loading and unloading practices, Anna Borges, California’s state director of pupil transportation, confirmed to us that the state hasn’t had a documented death since the crossing requirement was established in the 1950s.)

Finlayson-Schueler also mentions that the commercial driver’s license (CDL) manual in nearly every state includes a crossing procedure that drivers and students can use to avoid accidents.

“I have only seen one deposition of a driver in a court case who understands this procedure, and I have never had a case that would not have been avoided by using the procedure properly,” he said.

We hope that these stories, which can also be found in our upcoming September issue, help you bolster your operation with valuable safety refreshers and avoid any shake-ups as we work our way into the new school year.

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James Blue

James Blue

General Manager

James Blue was the general manager of METRO Magazine.

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