Students and the public nationwide received reminders in October on school bus safety from school bus industry product and service suppliers, law enforcement and school districts.
Law Enforcement Doubles Down
School Bus Safety Week, held annually during the third full week of October, provided the opportunity for law enforcement to heavily target school bus safety. Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers rode along on buses or followed them to identify illegal passers.
Several Kansas police and sheriff’s departments collaborated to work a special bus stop sign violations project in Sedgwick County. Deputies rode school buses whose routes had the most stop arm violations and relayed the information of violators to officers positioned in the area.
Pennsylvania conducted its 22nd Annual Operation Safe Stop. The Department of Transportation asked district transportation directors to identify troublesome routes or stops, then had police officers watch those stops or ride certain buses to help cite illegal passers. Operation Stop Arm, held from Oct. 15-19 in North Carolina, was operated in a similar way with troopers using unmarked vehicles to monitor bus routes.
In Ohio, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Beavercreek Police Department, Fairborn Police Department and the Xenia Police Division sent more officers on school bus routes or into school zones to watch for illegally passing drivers.
The California Highway Patrol continued its “Vehicles Illegally Passing a School Bus” (VIPS) enforcement project that began in 2017. In that campaign, officers ride along on school buses and encourage people to report motorists passing a stopped school bus with its flashing red lights on and stop arm out.
“When you see that bus, even if it’s not indicating for you to stop, you still want to be extra cautious, in case the child does something unexpected like run out into the roadway to catch their bus,” pointed out Officer Jake Sanchez.
With National Teen Driver Safety Week coinciding with School Bus Safety Week, Missouri targeted teenage drivers with instruction on paying attention to the road and not being distracted. The state highway patrol also gave tips for student riders on how to behave in an orderly fashion on the school bus.
Maryland’s State Department of Education this week released its report on illegal school bus passing from a one-day count that was conducted in April. The 3,812 violations that school bus drivers reported surpassed last year’s count of 3,384.
States, School Districts Educate and Appreciate
Fulton County School System in Georgia conducted its annual Bus Road-e-o, in which its drivers compete to ensure their skills are sharp. The district was the first in Georgia to add lap-shoulder seat belts to its larger school buses. The district is also converting its diesel fleet to propane via grant funding and local sales tax money.
IDEA Public Schools in Texas shared technology, like the Here Comes the Bus app, that it uses to ensure its students are transported safely every day.
Veteran driver Charles Houser of Meridian Public Schools in Nebraska told local news channel KWBE that he takes the crucial step of stressing proper safety procedures to his student riders every day.
Transportation Director David Burnett of Lexington City Schools in North Carolina provided a reminder that it is important for both motorists on the roads and students to be aware of the school bus. “Today, the children are on their phones and have in ear buds,” he said. “We will be discussing with them the importance of looking at us and seeing us.”
Baldwin County Schools in Alabama produced a series of informational videos. In one, Transportation Director Anthony Pollard cautioned motorists sharing the road with school buses that they would be the ones to receive the most damage in a crash with a bus. He and local law enforcement officers also implored the public to abide by illegal passing laws for the safety of schoolchildren.
Waterford Unified School District in Central California held its annual community Trunk or Treat event. The transportation department made capes, flashing red lights and superhero t-shirts to convey safety rules on the bus. It also hosted a photo booth for students to choose their favorite bus rule and their favorite superhero bus driver.
“Interacting with our regular riders as well as those that don’t get to ride the bus makes this very valuable tool to convey safety. Plus we have soooo much fun,” shared Director of Transportation Suzanne Bauer.
School bus drivers were not neglected in the conversation, as they were appreciated for the stellar job they do in operating student transportation vehicles multiple times each day. Even Google got in on the action. It created a video in which two rural Alabama school bus drivers shared their perspective on how the “Rolling Study Halls” school bus Wi-Fi project helps their students.
In Texas, the whole town of Laredo got involved. Decorated school buses from United Independent School District and Laredo Independent School District took students and community members on a parade route. The festivities were supported by police officers, Mayor Pete Saenz and Commissioner John Galo.
“This gesture of unity underscores the value of our wonderful school bus drivers. Motorists also bear the responsibility to observe and heed all laws that pertain to school bus safety. Our combined efforts maximize the level of safety for all of our precious children,” said Saenz.
The state of Hawaii officially recognized School Bus Safety Week for the first time this year with a poster sent to all public school districts and bus drivers to publicly display. Superintendent of the Hawaii State Department of Education Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto urged districts and students to think of ways to express their appreciation to their school bus drivers.
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer set Oct. 24 as School Bus Drivers’ Appreciation Day and invited the student winners of the Kansas School Bus Safety Poster Contest to the statehouse for recognition.
“If the parent has time to bring their children to the bus and just say, ‘Thank you’—that means a lot to us,” said Jason Beyer, who started as a school bus driver and now serves as assistant director of transportation for Emporia Public Schools and president of the Kansas State Pupil Transportation Association. “Basically, just a handshake and the words mean the most to us. It lets us know that the parents know that we’re doing a good job of taking care of their kids.”
“We’re recognizing our transportation team this week. They bring our students safely to school each day and then get them home,” tweeted Monroe County Schools in Georgia. The district also conducted evacuation drills with its students (see video at the end of this article).
Industry Suppliers, Contractors Intensify Training
School Bus Safety Company, which produces school bus driver training, recently released an updated version of its Danger Zone video training. “(We are) glad to make that available to districts and contractors kicking off National School Bus Safety Week,” said Chris Walls, head of SBSC.
National school bus contractor Student Transportation, Inc. focused on bus stop safety, training its drivers in the correct procedures to take when approaching and leaving stops, so students are all safe and accounted for. It also took the opportunity to induct several outstanding employees into its Safety Wall of Fame.
Pennsylvania contractor DMJ Transportation provided snacks to show their appreciation for their drivers and introduced a new safety mascot, Safety Bus Gus. An employee dons an alligator suit to play the mascot, then visits schools and school buses to provide a fun and education experience for students. The visits also create excitement about school bus safety.
The New York School Bus Contractors Association used the occasion to renew its call for the passage of AB8565a, which “would include a school bus safety component in the driver’s education curriculum and at least one question on school bus safety in the NYS pre-licensing written exam.”
Technology and fleet management systems provider Zonar Systems provided checklists full of safety tips for both parents and students.