20 Ways to Bolster School Bus Safety

These school bus safety tips can help your school keep students safe.

8. Be Vigilant in Seating, Discipline

Making sure that students are properly seated is a key safety factor.

“Ensure that passengers are resting fully within the ‘safety compartment’ of the seat – i.e., there no body parts protruding into the aisle,” says consultant Horne. “If students’ buttocks, arms or legs extend beyond the edge of the seat, the seat is overcrowded.”

Because student discipline problems can negatively impact others on the bus, they should be addressed swiftly.

Jill Segal, transportation supervisor for Walled Lake (Mich.) Consolidated School District, says that drivers should be the first point of contact with students’ parents. “Keep the school administrators in the loop and enlist their help if need be,” she adds. “Track the bus violations to monitor improvement.”

Drivers at Miller Transportation in Indianapolis compiled a list of discipline tips for the operation’s driver handbook that Todd Edwards, school bus operations manager, says they use frequently to help prevent and attend to student discipline problems. Among the tips are:

  • Be very consistent.
  • Intelligence in handling youth consists of thinking faster than they do. If they can out-think you, you are not using your maturity and the advantage of your education and training – you should see possibilities before they
    become results.

9. Keep Loading Zones Free of Cars

If motorists enter school bus loading and unloading zones, it can be dangerous for both students and drivers. John Clements, director of transportation at Kings Canyon Unified School District in Reedley, Calif., says that a private school near his district recognized this and staged the photo above as a reminder to parents to stay out of the zones.

“It is also a good safety reminder that as school facilities personnel and administrators plan for new schools and remodel existing schools, parents’ cars should not mix with school buses in the same loading and unloading areas,” Clements says.

10. Don’t Succumb to Distraction

Staying focused and avoiding distractions are critical in operating a school bus.

Lawrence of Fairport Central School District recommends limiting the use of radio communications. “This applies to both dispatchers and drivers,” he says. “Relaying unnecessary information back and forth clogs up the radio channel and tends to force drivers to mentally tune out the chatter.”

Chris Telarico, transportation supervisor at Santa Ana (Calif.) Unified School District, says that, unfortunately, the most common distractions are things that need to be dealt with, such as an unruly child or a complaining parent.

“If a parent comes up to the bus to complain about students trampling her lawn, we need to ask her to wait until the students have finished unloading so we can give her our undivided attention,” Telarico says. “Or if you have students having problems on the bus while you are driving, you need to pull over and deal with the situation. When you finish with the problem at hand, take the time to reassess what is happening around you – checking mirrors, traffic, students, etc.”

Montana state pupil transportation director Maxine Mougeot adds that to avoid fatigue, drivers should take a break every three hours on long trips.

11. Reward Good Bus Behavior

Kenny Adams, a bus driver for Covington (Ohio) Exempted Village Schools, started a program in which he presents a monthly Safe Rider award to his elementary school passengers. At the end of each month, the students who best follow the rules – staying seated while on the bus, walking and not running to board, being polite and helpful, and keeping the bus tidy – are awarded certificates.

“This has made my bus a lot safer, as students are quieter and help each other more, and just [behave] a lot safer when around buses,” Adams says. “They all look forward to the last day of the month to see who wins.”

12. Relay Bus Safety Rules, Laws

Communicating bus rules with students, particularly new riders, is key to maintaining an orderly, safe environment on and around the bus. Christopher Zeitvogel, student transportation manager at the DoDEA-Pacific Misawa (Japan) Student Transportation Office, says that his operation has drafted a list of safety standards that students must adhere to.

Several of the standards are:

  • Wait for the bus well back from the curb. Do not approach the bus until
    it is stopped and the door is opened. Never run towards your bus as the
    bus arrives.
  • Students are not permitted to talk to friends or pass items through the windows, nor run after or chase the bus.
  • Pens and pencils may cause injury if the bus hits a bump, and so are not allowed to be used on the buses.

“On the first day of school, the bus attendant goes over these rules with
their riders,” Zeitvogel says.

Bus safety information and laws should also be shared with the public. David Twiddy, transportation director at Dare County Schools in Nags Head, N.C., has made a practice of running a safety information page in the local papers during the two weeks prior to the start of a new school year.

“It tells everyone to be on the lookout,” Twiddy says. “It also provides the laws dealing with stopped school buses.”

13. Be Careful When Backing Bus

Backing a school bus should be avoided as much as possible, and done very carefully when it becomes necessary.

“Scan the road ahead for any situation that might cause you to back,” Pace of Virginia Beach City Public Schools recommends to drivers. “Only back if you can’t go safely forward.”

Dennis Rothery, director of transportation at the O’Neal School in Southern Pines, N.C., says that he sometimes notices drivers and mechanics looking over their shoulders while backing buses.

“They cannot see what is next to the bus – they must learn to back using their mirrors,” Rothery says. “I have them sit in the driver’s seat and try to see me on the right side by looking over their shoulder. I am 6’5” and cannot be seen by them, but I can see them in the mirror – this proves my point.”

Cyndi Henk, safety trainer at Comal Independent School District in New Braunfels, Texas, adds this advice: “When backing a school bus, always apply your four-way flashers and honk twice before moving, even with the backup beeper going.”

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