Bus Driver Safety Tips
By Harry Cheff, Risk Management Associate and Annette Satterly, Risk Management Associate
Over the vast stretches of Montana highways from August through June, school districts across the state will transport students to school, to extra/co-curricular activities, to conferences, field trips, and other places and events. The important role a bus driver plays in this immense and immensely important daily operation of the district cannot be overstated. And with this duty for transporting students safely comes tremendous responsibility. Bus drivers must therefore always ensure that they have taken every precaution and followed all protocols prior to departure while driving, and even after a trip has concluded.
Many variables can make driving difficult and dangerous. The list of dangers—many no doubt familiar to all of us in Montana—includes variable road conditions, seasonal construction, unpredictable wildlife, distracted drivers, smoke from forest fires, and, of course, changing weather conditions.
Against this backdrop, this article seeks to shed light on some of the more common dangers and to provide suggestions for avoiding them whenever possible:
- Do a pre-trip inspection. Many accidents can be avoided if the tires are properly inflated, the windshield is clean, fluids are at proper levels, etc.
- Always buckle your seat belt before you start driving!
- Properly adjust your mirrors and take into account how far they stick out beyond the bus or vehicle. We often have claims that start, the bus mirror “clipped”!
- SLOW DOWN! Driving 5 mph below the speed limit is a great way to avoid an accident. Plan accordingly and allow enough time to get to your destination. (There are many apps that will allow you to type in your expected driving speed to calculate the estimated arrival. Speed considerations aside, please keep in mind that you never know who else is on the road.
- Although you as the driver are in control of the vehicle, please be mindful of and open to any concerns your passengers might feel compelled to share with you.
- Pay attention while driving. Distracted driving causes many accidents.
- Turn off your cell phone prior to driving! With the rare exception of emergency situations, bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while operating school buses. To call for assistance in the event of a mechanical breakdown or other mechanical problem, the drive should place the call when the school bus is parked. [Board Policy 8123]
- Never drive if you are fatigued.
- Don’t back up if you don’t have too. If you do have to back up, check behind you before you get into the vehicle, make sure the mirrors are adjusted correctly, and, if available in the bus you are operating, make use of the backup camera.
- Watch for wildlife along the road. Because of the large number of forest fires, many animals are coming closer to the highways.
- We live in Montana. Always be ready for the weather to change and plan accordingly.
- Always conduct a post-trip inspection to help ready the bus for the next journey.
In addition to the suggestions above, MSGIA has a library of SafeSchools classes. Everyone who is driving a district-owned vehicle should be required to watch. These include the following:
- Distracted Driving (12 min)
- Defensive Driving (19 min)
- Winter Driving (15 min)
- City Driving (15)
- Van Safety (21 min) and 15-Person Van Safety (19 min)
In addition to the classes listed above, there are also classes everyone, including bus drivers, would benefit from taking. They are,
- Driver Training Course 07: Intersections (27 min)
- Driver Training Course 08: Safe Backing (12 min)
- Driver Training Course 11: Pedestrians & Cyclists (17 min)
- Driver Training Course 14: Driver Fatigue
- Driver Training Course 05: Mirror Adjustment and Reference Points (14 min)
In light of the increased number of visitors to our fine state, one could expect a “bumpy ride” during the next fiscal year. Long gone are the days when a fender bender would only cost a couple of hundred dollars. For this year to be successful, bus drivers need to adopt a mindset that all accidents are avoidable. By taking time to review the suggestions above most, if not all, accidents will be prevented assuring every district will have a great FY21-FY22!
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