CINCINNATI — Placing a child on the school bus for the first time can be a big step for parents, but today's school buses are extremely safe and reliable ways for students to travel. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are approximately 13 times safer than passenger cars and 10 times safer than walking to school. And in 2011, First Student, the largest provider of student transportation in North America, celebrated its safest year ever. These days, school bus safety goes way beyond flashing lights and stop signs. From GPS systems to drivers specifically trained to address bullying, First Student has worked to address safety at all levels and offers tips for parents to help children prepare for school.
Driver Training to Help Prevent Bullying Behaviors
First Student drivers undergo extensive training prior to transporting any students. A re-engineered training program launched this summer further helps drivers develop the critical skills necessary to be a safe, successful school bus driver. Rooted in scientific research, the driver training program includes both classroom and behind-the-wheel training to ensure new drivers are prepared for a variety of challenging scenarios prior to transporting any students.
In addition, all First Student drivers undergo special training to help them deal with the issue of bullying. Based on a campaign created by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools and the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the "See Something, Do Something" campaign is customized for First Student and includes support materials to reinforce the training. Drivers are taught how to identify and help prevent bully behavior, whether it is physical or verbal, and are encouraged to adopt a zero tolerance policy on their buses when it comes to bullying. This training enables First Student bus drivers to serve as a trusted adult when students have concerns about bullying behavior on the bus or in the classroom.
"It is our goal at First Student to be the leaders in safety in every way, beginning with our re-engineered driver training programs," said Gary Catapano, senior vice president, First Student Safety. "Our drivers are fully qualified not only to operate the school bus in the safest way possible, but are focused on creating an on-board environment of trust and respect."
Technological Advancements on the School Bus
Since its inception, the school bus and its systems have been designed with one objective in mind - to safely transport students to and from school every day. Today's buses are engineered for optimal performance, with technology and features designed to make the ride extremely safe, including:
High-definition GPS systems, which are located on most First Student buses, providing exact location and speed of a school bus at any time;
Child Check-Mate, an on-board electronic reminder system that reminds drivers to check for sleeping children before leaving the bus;
Flashing lights and extended stop arms that warn motorists that children are boarding or unloading;
Well-anchored seats with high backs and heavy padding to create a protective seating area, and
Smaller buses for preschool children and special needs students. These buses utilize car seats or specialized restraint systems and often have an assistant on board.
Parents Can Help Prepare Students for a Safe School Year
Parents can help ease their children's transition to the school bus by following a few simple tips:
Meet your child's bus driver. It's important for your child to know his bus driver's name and bus number.
Set up a consistent routine with your child. Kids, like adults, thrive on consistency. Begin preparing for school at least a week in advance by waking up and eating breakfast earlier. Once school begins, establish a schedule and routine, which includes having plenty of time to walk to the bus stop.
Make sure your child's belongings are clearly marked. Put your child's name and bus number inside her backpack where it's easy to access.
Talk to your child about bullying before the school year begins. First Student drivers are extensively trained on how to recognize and prevent bullying, so your child should know that the driver is a trusted adult who can help if bullying occurs at school or on the bus.
Talk to your child after school every day. If you sit down and ask your child every day about his school day, your child will feel more comfortable telling you if there is an issue.
First Student provides school districts industry leading expertise and implements best practices in safety so that educators can focus on education.