School Bus Safety

Essay by kiji33A+, September 2008

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According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, since 1996, an estimated 1, 387 crashes were school-transportation related. This indicates that despite increased education, harsher laws for DWIs and similar crimes, and new slogans splayed on billboards and television ads such as “don’t drink and drive” and “buckle up”, these have largely fallen on deaf ears. A popular cartoon, The Simpsons illustrates this point best with Otto, the bus driver, often neglecting stop signs, driving wildly, and even having his license revoked. Current vehicle accidents could easily be avoided even if you have Otto as your bus driver, especially incidents relating to school-transportation if emergency procedures were followed and implemented. Thus, when we examine the topic of “Emergency Procedures, What do All School Bus Riders Need to Know?” we must first look at emergency bus evacuations drills, secondly how to use emergency equipment, and lastly, what to do in the event that a bus driver is incapacitated.

Recently at my high school due to new Texas Legislation entitled “School Bus Emergency Evacuation Training” amending Sec. 34.0021, we had a school-wide training session for both teachers and students regarding emergency procedures. This effectively ensured that during necessary evacuation drills, the entire student body and faculty would be able to leave and enter school buses in an orderly manner. All school bus riders were required to do two different drills once we left the school. The first drill consisted of the first half of the bus leaving through the double-doors next to the bus driver and the second half of the bus sitting and scooting out the emergency exit. The second drill entailed all persons on the bus sitting and scooting from the rear emergency exit with necessary assistance to those hindered by crutches or other impediments. Although these drills may have seemed repetitive and downright unnecessary, tragic accidents such as the one that occurred on September 21, 1989 have been avoided. In Alton, Texas, a Coca-Cola delivery truck collided with a school bus over a bridge resulting in the total blockage of the front door and only one rear emergency exit. On a bus with 81 students, 21 died from drowning and three received major injuries. Unfortunately, laws set in place in 1989 did not mandate more emergency doors, but today’s generation seems to take these and other precautions for granted.

In addition to more emergency doors and a limited occupancy on the bus, knowledge of where safety equipment is located and how to use it is also vital to emergency situations. According to an article titled “Key Safety Equipment Required on School Buses”, among the necessary components of a working school bus are emergency exits, special mirrors, and unlisted were the school radio and fire extinguisher. During the before-mentioned bus drill at my high school, the bus driver showed all of us how to open the above hatch of the school bus to evacuate if the bus was ever on its side, how to open the side windows located in the middle of the bus, and where safety equipment such as her transistor radio and fire extinguisher were in cases of fire. This knowledge is necessary to saving time and lives in crises like the tragedy that occurred in 1989 to even a simple fire from fuel combustion.

Despite the helpful insight and help my bus driver was able to provide during the emergency training and drill session with where safety equipment was located and how to use it, sometimes she may be unable to help in an emergency event. In an article titled “Emergency Evacuation Training – School Activity Trips”, in the event that the bus driver is incapacitated, school patrol members should direct activities that the bus driver would normally do such as using the transistor radio and calling for help, assisting other students through emergency exits, and directing the use of safety equipment. During these situations, being cool, calm, and collected is key to a speedy evacuation, but this can only be accomplished if everyone knows how to call for assistance and how to use safety equipment.

So, even if Otto from The Simpsons is your bus driver, keep in mind that bus evacuation drills using the sit and scoot method, knowledge of how to use safety equipment, and being able to take over when your bus driver is incapacitated will go a long way in preventing future disasters. Potentially, 1, 387 deaths could have been avoided if all bus riders had been properly informed. Thus, if all of us work together in implementing new legislation for emergency procedures, education about bus safety will work, there will be less DWIs, and slogans such as “don’t drink and drive” and “buckle up” won’t be corny, they’ll finally be listened to.

“Key Safety Equipment Required on School Buses.” School Bus Information Council. 2003 23 Jan. 2008.

Szuberla, Charles. “Seat Belts on School Buses in New York State.” State Education Department. Nov. 1998.

23 Jan. 2008 .

Trump, Ken. “School Bus Security & School Transportation Crisis Planning.” National School Safety andSecurity Services. 2007. 23 Jan. 2008.