It’s almost back to school time again. School buses will soon be running on full schedule, covering all routes. As parents it’s time to remind kids of the rules of school bus safety. It’s also time to remind drivers to safely share the road with children. Children are excited to be heading back to the classroom. Their minds are not on safety. They’re easily distracted and easily missed as they dart out from between parked vehicles, or run across the street to meet friends at the bus stop. Everyone has a role to play in keeping kids safe.
Beth McLaughlin, Location Safety Manager, with school bus company First Student Canada has worked in the school bus industry for 23 years. She has driven buses and trained school bus drivers. Hers is a very serious and demanding position, ensuring all children riding First Student Canada buses arrive at school and arrive home safely. “Our school bus drivers are trained a minimum of 17.75 hours in the classroom, and must obtain a minimum of 22.25 hours in skills-training behind the wheel. Bus drivers also participate in mandatory workshops during the year. They are audited, and as an extra reminder, safety messages are sent on their two way radios,” said McLaughlin.
One particular tool bus drivers are beginning to use regularly is the thumbs-up sign. When a bus driver gives a thumbs-up sign to a child it’s important. “The Danger Zone for children is the three metres in front of the bus. When children are dropped off and have to cross the street, they should wait for that thumbs-up sign from the driver. It means safety equipment is functioning. Overhead flashing lights are on, the stop side arm is out, and the crossing gate is out. Most importantly, the driver has made a final check for cars. If your bus company doesn’t use this hand signal you might want to speak to them. It’s gaining popularity across the country and we really recommend it,” said McLaughlin. Unfortunately, at times parents and caregivers are in a rush and encourage children to run across the street before the thumbs-up sign from the driver. This is dangerous and confusing for children who are taught by drivers and the school to wait for the sign. “When accidents happen it is almost always in the Danger Zone very near the bus, and at pick up or drop off times.”
Drivers must always obey posted speed limits in school zones. Make note of any speed limits that may have changed during the summer months. Children leave school for a variety of reasons during the day. Therefore, it is important to maintain a safe speed during the entire day, not just early morning and mid afternoon at typical drop off and pick up times. A vehicle’s speed and the reflexes of the driver may be all that comes between a child and a tragic accident. Parents can play a big role in the safety of their children at the bus stop. Before school starts review school bus rules with children. If bus drivers, parents, children and drivers work together everyone will have a safe school year.
Across the country please visit your local school board bus company for bus safety rules specific to your child’s school.
In Ottawa visit the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority at: www.ottawaschoolbus.ca for more information on school bus safety.