School districts nationwide are enhancing bus safety by employing more technology, providing students with increased instruction on safety practices and getting parents more involved.
There are 480,000 buses that carry 25 million students nationally from kindergarten to high school, and approximately 50% of school-age students ride a yellow school bus to and from school, said Bob Riley, executive director for the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.
There are 15-18 student fatalities that occur on the bus or outside the bus each year, Riley said. A study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 2006 estimated that there were 17,000 bus-related injuries nationally each year.
Among the latest safety initiatives:
Folsom, Calif.: Folsom Cordova Unified School District will soon make use of bar-code readers linked to a GPS tracking system. Students will swipe a card when they get on and off a bus, allowing school districts to keep track of the location and time. Thomas Polan, vice president of technology of Synovia Solutions, which supplied the technology, said he understands the installation is finished, but implementation is yet to come.
Boston: In September, Boston Public Schools made the application “Where’s my School Bus” available to families. The free app allows families to track the location of their child’s bus on a real-time GPS-enabled map.
Phoenix: In June, the Laveen Elementary School District installed an alarm system in its 22 buses that goes off when the bus is turned off by the driver. The driver has to walk to the back of the bus to turn it off, ensuring that he or she will see if any child has been left behind, said Eric Kissel, the district’s transportation director.
Kissel said the district has created a document parents have to sign that lists approved receivers for when the child is being dropped off.
Bartow County, Ga.: Starting in September, pre-K and kindergarten students in Bartow County Schools began receiving “a more hands-on approach” regarding proper bus behavior and crossing and boarding procedures in addition to the related state class curriculum, said Jody Elrod, director of transportation for Bartow County schools.
Several of the new measures address the problem of children being left on school buses. Kristen Landry, communication coordinator for the Laveen Elementary School District, said the district had a student that had been left on the bus in April.
“This system was added as another layer of prevention,” Landry said.
Riley, who is also a spokesperson for the American School Bus Council, said such incidents happen less frequently because of more emphasis on training drivers.
“Typically, it’s a small child, and the child falls asleep riding [on the bus],” Riley said.
Many school districts lack appropriate technology or funding. Alan Ross, president of the National Coalition of School Bus Safety, said school districts will “routinely” buy the cheapest technology.
“If it is not mandated, it doesn’t happen,” Ross said.
Jon King, CEO of Synovia Solutions, said each device for the bar code readers the Folsom Cordova Unified School District plans to use costs $250-350
Courtesy of USA Today