Originally published in NYSIR News – Spring 1997
Spring Is Here: Flowers Bloom, Birds Sing, Children Are At Risk
As we begin to get over the doldrums of being pent up inside during the winter, our thoughts turn to the outside with enthusiasm. Days grow longer and brighter, birds migrate north and begin to nest, flowers start blooming. And one of the last things on our minds is that spring time also brings one of the highest rates of fatality for our children riding school buses.
The Most Dangerous Time
Each year, without exception, the most dangerous period during the school year includes April through June. The stark reality is that we must prepare for this time of the year by reviewing with our building principals, teaching staff, and bus drivers the importance of proper loading and unloading procedures. Additionally, we must communicate to our community residents that passing a school bus may have fatal results.
The increased activities in the school environment during the spring create added pressures for Transportation Departments. There may be a need for up to 50% more drivers and equipment because of the increased number of sports programs, field trips, and building activities from March to June. This necessitates putting many spare drivers on regular routes. The inconsistency of student ridership created by their participation in-after school activities, coupled with the use of spare drivers who may not be familiar with existing routes and stops, can often lead to routes being altered, unintentionally, thus increasing the risk for accidents. As the number of activities increases so does the distribution of flyers and leaflets, thus creating the possibility of greater distractions. To combat this, principals should reinforce with their teachers the importance of not handing flyers to students just before they board their bus, and ensuring that all loose papers are secured.
What else can we do to reduce our exposure? We must remind our staffs that the increase in activities increases the risk for incidents. We must remind bus duty staff that buses may not leave a school until all students are safely boarded and the area is clear of students. And we must assign a staff member to signal the lead bus that it’s all clear and they may leave.
Tips and Cautions
For drivers, schedule a refresher meeting to remind them of the loading and unloading procedures. An excellent publication to use is The Moment of Truth, a booklet that details the proper procedures and offers tips and cautions (With permission, we offer some of those tips on page 7). This excellent publication was developed for and by school bus drivers and may be purchased from the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute for $1 each in quantities of 25 or more. The Institute also offers comprehensive instructors’ packets at $20 apiece. For more information, please write to 443 S. Warren St., Syracuse, NY 13202, or call 1-800-836-2210.