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Beyond the Wheel: Little Things School Bus Drivers Can Do to Make Big Differences

Every day, millions of students nationwide begin and end their school day on a school bus, including my two children. As I drop them off and watch the iconic bright yellow bus turn the corner, a wave of relief washes over me, knowing they are commuting on one of the safest modes of transportation available.

This peace of mind is instant, and as a mother, I’m grateful that safety is the top priority for everyone in your industry. Because I also know that students are 70 times more likely to arrive at school safely when riding the bus versus traveling by car—including mine—according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But how many parents know about this as well?

It’s an impressive number that, on the one hand, should be shared and celebrated as your daily work continues to prioritize the safety and well-being of our children on the road. On the other hand, as humans, only a small part of our brain—the conscious mind—is focused on processing data, facts, and figures (approx. 5 percent). The larger part of our brain—the subconscious mind—is where our feelings, assumptions, and emotions reside (approx. 95 percent).

That’s why, even if we know the impressive statistic, parents’ and children’s subconscious minds really influence their actions and emotions. As a result, it’s essential to create positive and reassuring experiences that reinforce the message of safety beyond the facts and figures.

School bus drivers play the most crucial role during this process, as in the perception of parents and children, they are the primary touch point during this experience. Families may not even consider the various individuals who contribute to ensuring the safety of students during their school transportation experience. While transportation directors oversee the transportation system, mechanics and technicians maintain the buses, and school administrators promote a culture of accountability. For parents and children alike it’s often assumed that the main responsibility for ensuring safety during school transportation lies solely with the bus drivers.

So, attracting the subconscious mind of parents or children can be a powerful tool to persuade and influence their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, often without them even realizing it. By engaging the subconscious mind through some of these tactics, bus drivers can create a more persuasive message that resonates with others on this more profound, emotional level:

Greet everyone extra warm and friendly. A wave of the hand, a smile, and a friendly hello can go a long way in establishing a positive relationship.

Communicate clearly and concisely. This means taking the time to explain the proper use of seat belts, emergency procedures, and other safety procedures or guidelines by using appropriate language for their age and understanding.

Tell engaging stories. By sharing real-life examples, personal stories, or the importance of safety on the road can be illustrated in a more relatable, engaging, and interesting way.

Incorporate visuals. By using eye-catching visual aids, such as images or posters, people’s attention can be captured much better. In fact, according to some estimates, up to 90 percent of the information that our brains process is visual.

Add humor, if appropriate. Using humor and wit in communication helps others relax and feel more comfortable. A well-timed joke or humorous story can help to break the ice and create a positive atmosphere.

Use comparisons. Metaphors and analogies can be powerful tools for explaining complex concepts in a simple and relatable way. By comparing driving a bus to being a pilot of a plane, for example, you can help passengers understand the importance of safety procedures and teamwork.

Repeat key messages. Repetition is crucial for reinforcing important safety messages on the bus. Repeating key phrases or reminders throughout the trip can help passengers remember the importance of following safety procedures.

Be positive. Always. Using positive language and tone can help create a more optimistic and encouraging atmosphere on the bus. Focusing on the benefits of following safety procedures and praising good behavior can help students feel more motivated to follow the rules.

Model safe behavior yourself. Students look up to bus drivers as role models, so it’s essential that you model safe behavior yourself.

Stay focused and avoid distractions. Driving a school bus requires full attention. Avoid distractions such as texting or talking on the phone, eating or drinking, or engaging in other activities that may take your focus away from the road.

Be attentive and aware of your surroundings. As a bus driver, it’s essential to stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.

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By understanding the power of the subconscious mind and using tactics to engage it, bus drivers can create a safer and more reassuring transportation experience. When parents and students feel safe and secure, it creates a positive perception of the school bus transportation system, which can have far-reaching benefits. As a bus driver, taking the time to implement some of these little things that make a big difference not only enhances passenger safety but also improves driver satisfaction and confidence.

So, thank you, bus drivers, for all that you do to keep our children safe on the road. Your efforts are appreciated, and they do not go unnoticed.

Sylvie di Giusto is an international keynote speaker, author and expert in the field of emotional intelligence. With years of experience working with leaders across various industries, she understands the critical importance of first impressions and the impact they have on personal, professional and organizational success. Di Giusto will be training at the Transportation Director Summit during the STN EXPO Indianapolis in June and that same week providing the opening keynote address

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