Tips For Drivers That Can Save A Child’s Life

Originally published in NYSIR News – Spring 1997

Surprising, as it may seem, most child-related fatalities on school buses don’t occur in bad weather. Nor do they occur as a result of a moving accident. According to statistics compiled by the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute, four of every five children killed in school bus accidents die as they board or exit their bus.

This grim statistic carries even more weight as the weather grows warmer, as youngsters become more active and eager to play and as traffic increases in volume and speed. In this light, the following procedures, tips, and cautions are offered for, and from, school bus drivers, courtesy of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute.

Strictly enforce safe crossing procedures with all students at every stop.

  • Make eye contact with the student before he/she crosses the street.
  • Use a clear hand signal to tell children it’s safe to cross.
  • Make sure children know what to do if they hear a danger signal from you, such as a horn.
  • Teach students to check and recheck for oncoming traffic.

Count and recount children at every stop, every day.

  • Before moving your bus know where the children are who have just disembarked.
  • Don’t move until you’re certain you know where they are.
  • If you’ve lost track of a child, shut off and secure the bus, take the key, get out, and check around and underneath the bus. Err on the side of caution.

Assume the worst with approaching motorists

As a school bus driver, you share the road with a wide variety of motorists – some better that others. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that some motorists will fail to stop for your bus flashers – it happens many thousands of times every day from coast to coast.

  • Expect the worst, just in case.
  • Don’t discharge children until you are certain it is safe.
  • Be alert for vehicles passing on the right side or the shoulder.
  • Let following traffic pass before you reach the next bus stop.
  • Activate your yellow lights early.
  • Watch out for special vehicles, such as police cars and ambulances; cars in funeral processions may not stop.
  • Closely observe driveways and parking spaces.

Stay alert for special dangers.

  • Young children are most vulnerable.
  • Afternoon take-home bus runs are more dangerous than morning to-school runs.
  • Beware good weather and an outbreak of spring fever.
  • Backing is extremely dangerous.
  • Beware comer bus stops.
  • School sites are bus stops, too.
  • Keep a mindful eye on stragglers.
  • Dropped items can be fatal.

Correctly adjust mirrors on each bus driven during the day.

  • Front convex (crossover) mirrors should reveal the entire area hidden by the bus hood.
  • Rear convex mirrors should show the entire area along both sides of the bus, front and rear tires should also be visible.
  • Did you know: mirrors create their own blind spots?

Resist the temptation to rush. In today’s America, time pressures are pervasive. On bus routes, they can be dangerous. Professional bus drivers simply do not rush-ever.

  • Report unrealistic route times.
  • Focus and concentrate on one matter at a time. Professional bus drivers simply do not rush ever.
  • Missed a bus stop? Go around the block.
  • Are you a sub? You should be the most caution driver of all!

Understand route and bus stop safety.

  • Following basic principles of route and bus stop safeties that protect your students, your school district, and yourself.
  • Don’t change routes or stops.
  • Report unusual hazards.
  • Report route discrepancies.
  • Protect your passenger side when loading and unloading. Make children walk to your bus; it’s much safer.
  • Avoid comer stops, if possible.

Educate children. In 1989, the federal government conducted a study to determine the most effective means of improving school bus safety. The study’s conclusion? Student education. As a school bus driver, you have a unique opportunity to train your students.

  • Remind kids about safe crossing procedures every time they exit the bus.
  • Stress that they should never return to pick up a dropped item.
  • Make sure that they know what your hand signals mean.
  • Teach youngsters to ignore parents and friends when crossing the street: nothing else matters until safely across.
  • Remind children that some drivers do run red flashers.
  • Train students to wait in line, well back from the road in the morning.

Use middle loading whenever possible.

  • Middle loading means keeping the rear seats empty, except when your bus is filled to capacity. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended this for years.