District officials tout safety during National Bus Safety Week

Published 10:52 am Monday, October 17, 2016

The Vicksburg Warren School District has 142 buses that transport approximately 6,500 students twice daily. Transportation director Robert Bass is using this week, National Bus Safety Week, to raise awareness on keeping those students safe.

“Our motto is safety is No. 1,” Bass said.

He asks the public to remember to observe traffic safety rules when it comes to buses to keep children safe like slowing down in school zones, not passing a stopped bus, stopping about 20 feet away from a stopped bus and watching for yellow warning lights and red stop lights.

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“Stop means stop,” Bass said. “Yellow lights indicate that that bus is about to pick up students.”

Cameras are mounted on the outside of some buses to record drivers who do not follow proper safety measures when they are near the bus.

Some safety tips Bass mentioned for parents and students to use each morning before they are picked up include be on time to the bus stop, avoid horseplay, don’t run around— especially not in the street and stand in a straight line while waiting to board.

“Most of our buses have a crossing arm out front, which indicates that a child must walk 10 feet in front of a bus before crossing,” Bass said.

As for safety onboard the bus, Bass said each bus is equipped with a camera to monitor the behavior and actions taken onboard and two-way radios are being installed on every bus to enhance communication.

He hopes that parents and teachers will talk to their children about safe school bus behavior like talking in a regular tone, always staying seated, keeping all limbs inside and not sticking anything outside the windows.

“When kids misbehave on the school bus, any distraction takes the attention of the driver off the road,” Bass said. “That driver needs to be able to drive that bus as safely as possible keeping his or her eyes on the road at all times while also monitoring what’s going on inside that school bus.”

While this week is meant to highlight safety procedures, the bus drivers actually meet several times during the year to go over safety practices in order to stay up to date including a meeting at the beginning of the school year where drivers are taught the rules, regulations and procedures.

“We have several safety meetings throughout the school year to reinforce proper procedure as far as loading and unloading students,” he said. “Each of our drivers are recertified every other year. We attend school bus training class, which is required by the Mississippi Department of Education. Our drivers go through vigorous training.”

The district currently has a shortage of school bus drivers. Bass said at least six more drivers are needed. In the meantime, transportation department office staff and mechanics have been helping to cover routes.

“We’ve been adjusting routes. We’ve been doubling up,” he said. “Without them we probably couldn’t do it.”

The bus drivers will use this week to have a little fun by having dress up days.

“Here in our department we have a different theme each day of the week to try to get all of our drivers involved,” Bass said, adding Monday is throw back day, Tuesday is for breast cancer awareness, Thursday is twin day and Friday is hat day.