School Bus Safety Plans: What Might Be Missing?
published on February 25, 2020 by Sonia Mastros
How robust is your school bus safety plan?
Of course, any school district will have safety plans in place for their buses and transportation system. However, these plans are rarely complete. Arguably, they cannot be - unexpected situations are always possible. Still, there are certain blind spots that we tend to see going unaddressed, particularly when the danger doesn't require the bus to be underway.
Hopefully, your district already addresses most or all of these safety issues, but it's always a good idea to make sure.
Five Easily-Overlooked Areas Of School Bus Safety
1 - The loading/unloading zone
Too many schools try to cram too many parking lot functions into a single space, and this can create a hazardous situation for everyone involved. Bus loading\unloading zones should be as far as possible from the parking lot or where parents might be driving. In particular, there should be separate entrances/exits so that you never get buses and cars "fighting" for priority.
2 - Lack of student tracking
This is a tricky one. When you have hundreds of students all milling around the exit areas of the school, how do you keep track of which ones should be on the bus, and whether they have actually boarded? Many schools are implementing RFID-based tagging systems, specifically so they can keep tabs on their many students and ensure none are forgotten or left behind.
3 - Overburdened radio systems
How likely is it that, if a particular bus has problems that they'll be able to instantly get someone at the office to help? The more buses are all competing for the same radio frequencies, or operators at the office, the harder it will be for vital calls to get through. New communications options should be explored - such as cellular devices, or even texting - to make sure bus drivers always have working emergency contact options.
4 - Poor student-to-adult ratios onboard
When putting students in a classroom, it's common wisdom that a student/adult ratio any higher than about 20:1 is asking for trouble. So why is it that so many districts accept a 60:1 ratio when it comes to school buses? There's probably no better safety measure a district could implement than having at least one extra adult riding along at all times.
Can't afford to pay staff the extra hours? You can almost certainly find volunteers among the parents.
5 - Dangerous areas in town
In any larger town or city, there are undoubtedly areas where you wouldn't want children to go. Does your bus drive through these areas anyway? Better bus routing can keep buses away from dangerous areas, improving safety for everyone onboard.
Have you seen any unusual safety situations at your district? How were they dealt with? Let's talk in the comments below!