Transportation Officials Stress the Importance of Bus Drivers During School Bus Safety Week

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School districts across the country are working hard to promote school bus safety during National School Bus Safety Week with the support of transportation officials who drive this message home all year long. Every year the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) sponsors National School Bus Safety Week (NSBSW) during the third full week of October, this year Oct. 17 through 21, and a student poster contest. This year’s national theme is “Be Aware — Know the Danger Zone!” while the NAPT poster theme is “I see the driver and the driver sees me.” Both emphasize the importance of keeping children safe outside of the school bus, especially when they are boarding or exiting.

Durham School Services and Stock Transportation said NSBSW is a prime opportunity to remind motorists about following traffic laws and to also raise awareness among students.

“Safety is the primary value at Durham and Stock, and [NSBSW] is just one more way we can advocate for everyone to use extra caution around school buses,” said Michele McDermott, senior vice president of safety and human resources for Durham.

To honor its drivers, monitors, maintenance technicians and terminal managers, Student Transportation Inc. is establishing a “Wall of Fame” in its executive offices to recognize employees who have decades of accident-free driving or have gone the extra mile in their jobs. Starting next October, Wall of Fame recipients will be named each year during NSBSW.

“The dedicated men and women of the Student Transportation family are the foundation of our safety culture. The Wall of Fame gives us a special opportunity to recognize and honor their service,” said STI Safety Director Don Weir.

Yet another school transportation provider, First Student, is urging motorists to “See Yellow” to support NSBSW.

“To keep students, motorists and their passengers safe, we’re asking everyone on the road to pay attention, avoid distractions and watch for the yellow school buses on roadways,” said Gary Catapano, senior VP of safety at First Student, which has partnered with the National Safety Council to create a school bus safety website.

Local Efforts Mix Fun with Safety Lessons

Murrell Martin, Utah state director of pupil transportation, said his state has a multi-pronged campaign to target students, parents, school bus drivers, motorists and the funding decision makers.

“Two of our target audiences fit directly under our training curriculum programs,” Martin said. “Our students need to understand how important it is to follow safety procedures and follow what their drivers ask them to do. Our school bus drivers need to understand how important it is for them to train their students and … to follow all related safety procedures, including performing a through pre-trip inspection each day.”

Besides the many district-level activities designed to teach school bus safety, Martin said other innovative programs include a public service announcement with NBA All-Star Mark Eaton, a documentary about the value of Utah school bus transportation and the American School Bus Council’s Champions program.

“Our main event for this year’s kickoff of National School Bus Safety Week is for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Larry K. Shumway to ride an elementary school bus,” Martin said.

State Director Charlie Hood said the Florida Department of Education has been working with school districts statewide to promote NSBSW activities.

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Similar to the rest of the country, Clovis Unified School District school bus drivers in central California are being recognized for their dedication to safety. The drivers also recently showed their appreciation for transportation department leadership after the district resumed managing and operating special needs transportation.

“We are encouraging local school districts to promote School Bus Safety Week for two primary purposes: to educate the motoring public, parents and students on school bus safety; and, more specifically, to honor and commemorate our legions of professional school bus operators,” said Hood, noting that many districts are hosting breakfasts and the ever-popular “fish fries” to show appreciation for their bus drivers.

“I think most transporters would say they are underappreciated for the job that they do. It’s a tough job,” he continued. “Drivers are absolutely the most important factor in school bus safety.”

Monique Benoit, an instructor in the Clovis (Calif.) Unified School District transportation department, has a sweet week planned for their operators. The central California district just brought in 54 new drivers over the summer to transport special needs students. She said that drivers will receive a candy bar each day with a different safety tip, such as “Safety is nothing to Snicker about,” as well as catered breakfast on Monday and pizza on Friday.

“We just want to show our appreciation and that we don’t take for granted that they are doing a good job,” Benoit said.

The NSBSW motto that many school districts are using to capture kids’ attention this year is “Stand Back from the Yellow and Black,” NAPT’s poster theme for 2012. Skyline Schools in Pratt, Kan., and Aledo Independent School District in Texas are teaching students about safe behavior both inside and outside of the school bus.

“The state will send us some posters, and we will hang them all around the school,” said Skyline spokesperson Michelle Domsch.

“It is important to follow all safety rules posted in each bus to help maintain the safety of each rider,” said AISD Director of Transportation Steve Bond, adding that parents, students and other drivers need to know how they can help bus drivers provide safe transportation. “There is no safer way to get students to or from school or extracurricular events than by school bus.”