HELENA, Mont. — A school bus driver here recently received national recognition after purchasing reflective safety belts for students to wear at school bus stops.
Katee Horner, a driver for Helena Public Schools, was honored at First Student's Be First Awards held in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 2, according to a post on the Helena Public Schools transportation department’s Facebook page.
Horner, a U.S. Army veteran and first-year bus driver, told School Bus Fleet that she had received second place in the safety category after providing the students on her bus with reflective safety belts. She initially had the idea to purchase the belts after wearing one in the army, and decided to purchase them for her students to wear like a sash to ensure they would be seen by passing motorists.
As word started to spread about Horner’s idea, local businesses and parents also began to chip in to pay for the belts, according to the district. Horner, who was nominated by her peers at First Student, was selected as a finalist among over 600 nominees in a total of seven categories, according to the district.
“I feel honored to be recognized for my idea, and even more so to have received second place in the Be First Awards,” Horner said. “I feel the safety of our kids should always be a top priority. With more and more accidents occurring at the bus stop, I feel making students more visible to passing motorists greatly increases our chances to avoid a potential disaster.”
Bevann Hamill, the location manager for First Student’s Helena location, told SBF that most of the school bus stops for Helena Public Schools students are in rural areas, and have no sidewalks or street lights.
“Motorists often may not be able to see students while they’re waiting at the [bus] stops,” Hamill explained. “If my drivers and staff have to wear high-visibility vests on our bus yard just as an added piece of security to keep everyone safe, then I would just like to see our kids afforded that same safety.”
Hamill said First Student and Helena Public Schools plan to offer the reflective safety belts to most of the students on rural bus routes by this fall, and that both parties will share the cost of the belts, which is about $10 each.
Hamill added that while she and Horner attended the Be First Awards ceremony, they also met with First Student’s President Dennis Maple and Safety Vice President Darryl Hill to discuss Horner’s idea, and the possibility of implementing the belts at other First Student locations with rural bus stops.