A simulator available at no cost to school districts located northeast of Houston is supplementing school bus safety training efforts.
Funded by a $100,000 annual grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the simulator replicates the driving component of a typical school bus. It includes front and side monitors that provide the driver with a view of traffic, similar to a video game.
The simulator is programmed with computer-generated imagery, or CGI, scenarios that prepare drivers for anything from a turtle crossing the road to extremely hazardous driving conditions.
“Without this training, there are some driving conditions that we can’t show a driver unless they’re actually happening,” said Josh Rice, director of transportation for Klein ISD.
Rice requested Education Services Center Region 6, which has operated the simulator for local school districts since 2010, to bring the simulator to the district for driver training.
“Of course, I was more than happy to agree,” recalled Larry Thornton, a safety training specialist with Region 6. “It’s a win-win for Klein ISD because the drivers are receiving safe, interactive training in a state-of-the-art unit for free—the state is picking up the bill.”
Region transported the simulator in a 38-foot trailer for the training, which was held the week of Feb. 10.
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Rashelle Wisnoskie, a Klein ISD school bus driver for the past year, said the training was effective and proactive.
“This training is incredible because it allows drivers to hone their skills and safely experience the situations and dangers that we always hope we never run into in the real world,” she shared. “We hope we never see some of these things, but now we know what to do.”
The TxDOT grant necessary to operate the simulator also resulted in a new local program titled “School Bus Safety Training 101,” said Benney Raley, safety education and building operations coordinator for Region 6.
Without the TxDOT grant, the training would cost $1,800 a day to operate and cover related expenses, said Klein ISD in a statement. Rice said it would cost the district about $100,000 to purchase its own driver simulator, complete with computer, video screens and the driver compartment.
“I’m sure there are annual support fees and/or upgrade fees, though,” he added.
The district added that it plans to bring Region 6 and its simulator back to the district in July.