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School Bus Safety Week: 3 Safety Concerns

By Verizon Connect September 20, 2021

Every year, the third full week of October is National School Bus Safety Week. The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the week's sponsor, is also a co-sponsor of the Zip. Zero. Nada. None. program. The ZZNN's goal is to have a year with no school transportation fatalities by 2025. 

Held in the third week of October each year, National School Bus Safety Week is a public education program that helps parents, students, teachers and all those involved in schools and their fleets better understand safety at the bus stop and beyond. This year, kids in more than 40 states participated by creating artwork about school bus safety for a poster contest, and the NAPT released a list of tips to keep school bus safety at the forefront all year long.

School kids are 70 times safer getting to school by bus than by car. Even so, 240 school-age children died in school transportation-related crashes between 2010-2019. While the statistical risk may be low, the importance of school bus safety, and the responsibility to protect all school children is great.

Here’s an overview of three bus safety issues to reassess during National School Bus Safety Week, along with suggestions how your fleet’s safety program can help address them.

Protecting those beyond student transportation

School buses are designed to be some of the safest vehicles on the road. Features like rollover protection and high, protective seating help keep occupants safe, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regularly considers new ways to make them even safer. The NHTSA may soon amend federal safety regulations for school bus manufacturers to:

  • Raise the school bus seat back height from 20 to 24 inches
  • Require school busses under 10,000 pounds to have both lap and shoulder restraints

These regulations are an important part of keeping children safe on their way to school. However, of the 240 school children killed in accidents in the last decade, only 52 of them were occupants of the school transportation vehicle during in the accident.  The other 198 were in a second car, walking or biking.

Since the children most at risk for death due to a school bus accident are the ones near the bus, not on it, bus driver safety is all the more important. Using integrated vehicle dashcams pared with GPS tracking technology to collect driving data, you can personalize safety coaching for each driver. Using visual evidence of any harsh driving incidents, managers can notice patterns and provide coaching on proper driver behavior.

School bus driver safety training and retention

Like many fleets, school districts may have trouble hiring new qualified drivers, which creates an incentive to hold on to the fleet drivers you have. Reinforcing your safe driver program can help improve driving skills and safety awareness by:

  • Reviewing your safety standards, including what qualifies as unsafe driving, with all of your drivers
  • Providing safety and driving coaching based on the driving style revealed by vehicle tracking data
  • Making driver safety training available both online and behind-the-wheel so there are opportunities for constant reinforcement

Investing in the right technology and creating a strong safety culture and training program can make it easier to attract new school bus operators while helping to keep all motorists safe. And using a driver’s personal safety record, backed by data and video, as the basis for bonuses and rewards can help develop, retain and attract the very best drivers.

School routes are a vital part of safety

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report on a 2018 fatal crash involving a school bus. The immediate cause was the driver of a pickup truck ignoring the bus's extended stop arm, hitting four kids crossing the road to board the bus.

When the NTSB conducted a full investigation to identify any other contributing causes, it reported that an "inadequate safety assessment of school bus routes resulted in bus stops that required students to cross a high-speed roadway, placing them at risk." In this accident, the bus stop was along a two-lane highway with a 55mph speed limit, which could have been prevented.

To help improve route safety, the NTSB report recommends:

  • Training school administrations and transportation personnel to assess route and stop safety
  • Regularly reassessing the safety of approved routes and stops to address changing circumstances
  • Enforcing a written policy on how and when to report safety incidents
  • Having school bus drivers regularly examine and report their routes and stops for unsafe conditions

GPS fleet tracking technology pared with integrated video offers you a comprehensive data-based approach to help identify areas of risk for school bus routes and stops.

Download our eBook, 3 Ways Telematics Improves Fleet Management for Education to learn more about how a fleet management system can help you improve safety for students and drivers alike.

Verizon Connect

Verizon Connect Staff represents a team of professionals passionate about everything telematics. Get to hear about the latest trends, product features and industry best practices from the desk of Verizon Connect Staff.

Tags: Community, Dispatching & Scheduling, Fleet utilization, Fuel cost management, Inspections, Performance & Coaching, Routing, Safety, Service level compliance, Team Management, Vehicle Maintenance

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