School Bus Safety: Making Loading and Unloading Safer
published on May 11, 2018 by Sonia Mastros
It’s generally agreed that loading and unloading are the most dangerous times for a child riding a school bus. In fact, the loading and unloading area is even occasionally referred to “the danger zone” because of how many problems could potentially occur. The students are beyond the driver’s direct control and exposed to traffic and other hazards.
A school district looking to improve its school bus safety can always look to its loading and unloading policies. Anything a district does to make these times safer for their students will be significantly reducing the chances of accidents or even deaths.
Improving School Bus Safety with Better Loading/Unloading Practices
1 - Activate the warning flashers early.
Drivers should turn on their warning lights at least 100 feet before each stop. One of the biggest contributors to cars illegally passing buses during loading/unloading is cars simply not seeing the lights or not having enough warning.
2 - Consider adding more lights.
Looking for a cost-effective way to decrease illegal passing? Studies and trials have suggested that additional lights like strobe lights can make a huge difference; possibly even more than other measures, such as stop-arm cameras.
3 - Train students on a warning signal.
When students are about to step onto the road to enter or leave a bus, but the driver spots an oncoming car driving erratically or too fast to stop, what can the bus driver do? With proper student training, a warning signal – like honking the horn in a specific pattern – can be used to send students back to the curb. This requires pre-planning but is a great way to mitigate dangerous situations.
4 - Discharge students after a turn, not before.
In situations where the bus has a student drop at a corner and will also be turning right at that corner, turn first. Driver visibility is lower when turning, so it’s harder for the driver to keep track of the discharged students while also performing a turn.
5 - Have students maintain eye contact when walking in front.
It’s best if students don’t cross the street to get on the bus, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. The problem is, walking in front of the bus can be extremely dangerous. If students maintain eye contact with the driver as they walk, it helps ensure the driver is keeping track of them. Never let them walk so close to the bus that they could be obscured by the nose.
Much of school bus safety doesn't require investments or upgrades, just training and common sense. What procedures does your district use to maintain safety during loading and unloading? Share your tips in the comments below!