Yesterday I was thinking about student safety outside the bus.
Not long after publishing my own thoughts about student safety and the high percentage of students hurt in the Spring, we learned a young boy died. He was hit by his own bus, and his bus driver, according to news reports, is devastated. I imagine the entire community is devastated.
So am I.
We teach new drivers about student safety outside the school bus just like we teach students how to be safe by using a booklet, “The Moment of Truth: School Bus Loading and Unloading Safety.”
There are fourteen practices and suggestions in the booklet:
1. Establish and enforce safe crossing procedures at each and every stop with each and every student. Key point: if a student fails to follow safe crossing procedures, teach them how.
2. Count students. Key point: if a driver loses count or gets confused about how many students were present, get up and look for them.
3. Assume traffic will fail to follow rules, laws, and best practices. Key point: a defensive attitude and posture keeps the most people safe and healthy.
4. Remain focused on those students outside the bus. Key point: learn to count to ten before looking into the rearview mirror when motion catches your attention; the students inside the bus are safe.
5. Pay attention to the statistics. Key point: again, statistics report important things; statistics do not predict. * 25% of student fatalities occur when a student is hit by his or her own bus * young children are most vulnerable, but middle school students come a close second * pm routes in the Spring are most dangerous.
6. Drive a bus only after the mirrors are properly adjusted. Key point: mirror adjustment requires expert help; get it.
7. Maintain safe schedules. Key point: avoid rushing.
8. Understand safety. Key point: avoid desensitization caused by continuous performance of routine activities.
9. Use safety equipment correctly. Key point: if the bus is equipped with a crossing gate, DO NOT RELAX!! Too often students circle round the gate and walk toward the bus instead of continuing in a straight line.
10. Teach students to be safe. Key point: if students don’t take their own safety seriously, it’s more challenging to keep them safe.
11. Expect students to engage in unexpected and confusing behavior. Key point: drivers need to be familiar with each student’s habits and watch for changes in behavior.
12. Practice middle loading when assigning seats. Key point: the safest seats (the ones with the most cushion) are in the middle of the bus.
13. Listen to what students say. Key point: they have a gut instinct too, and sometimes adults don’t take them seriously.
14. Education begins with drivers and students, but doesn’t stop there. Key point: educate the public. We add one practice to safe crossing practices: we teach and use the “Thumbs UP for safety” signal. I’d like to see all bus drivers and all students using it. Practical? No. I cannot imagine our seniors giving the driver this hand signal. We’ll keep trying. Maybe if we keep working on it, our students will all be participating in the next decade.