Did you know that in the US alone, 480,000 school buses take to the roads each day? Transporting students always carries risks, but it is particularly perilous if you’re taking them on long-distance field trips. As lawyers for car accident cases, Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers encourage safety on all school trips. The following bus driver safety tips will keep you and your students safe on your next big outing:
Dealing with Distractions
The single most important job you have as a bus driver is to stay focused on the road. If you become distracted, you put yourself, your passengers, and other drivers at risk. Distractions are particularly hard to avoid on field trips, so make sure to:
- Avoid listening to music or the radio at a high volume or with headphones on.
- Don’t talk on the phone, send texts, or read texts. If you need to contact someone, stop the bus first.
- Ensure that passengers do not get in fights, talk loudly, or otherwise create distractions.
- Make sure your route contains periodic stops to rest, eat, and use the restroom. Take full advantage of these stops.
- Review the route and schedule before the trip so you don’t have to look at the map en route.
In addition to specific steps during the trip, preventing distraction means taking proper care of yourself beforehand. Get enough sleep, eat balanced meals, and exercise regularly. The less fatigued, restless, or hungry you are on the trip, the easier it will be to focus.
Although bus drivers can reduce distractions somewhat on their own, full focus on the road requires students’ cooperation. Students are most likely to cooperate with you if you treat them with respect and make them feel safe. You can do that through the following steps:
- If possible, learn each student’s name, and address them by name when they enter the bus.
- Be friendly to the students, and use “please” and “thank you” when making requests. This sets a positive example, encouraging them to show you similar respect.
- Pay attention to students’ body language. If they show signs of anxiety, anger, or sadness, try to help. The earlier you identify and deal with negative feelings, the less likely they are to cause serious disruptions.
- When speaking to students, give them plenty of personal space. This will make them feel more comfortable talking to you.
Encouraging students’ cooperation doesn’t just prevent distractions that can cause an accident, it also lowers the chance of conflict on the bus, keeping the students safe from each other. Thus, the more respect and empathy you show to your passengers, the fewer risks of all types you will face.
While empathy and respect go a long way toward encouraging students’ cooperation, some students will behave badly no matter how well you treat them. When this happens, you must be willing to punish them in firm but fair ways. Begin by establishing a set of rules, which you can hang on the bus or print out and distribute to passengers. The first time a student breaks a rule, give them a warning and explain what the punishment will be the next time. If they offend again, punish them exactly as you promised.
Your specific power to punish will depend on the school your students attend. No matter what punishments you give, however, it is essential that you dole them out consistently. If you warn students about a punishment but never follow through, they will ignore you. Only by punishing every offender as you warned them will you get students to take you seriously.
Besides dealing with distractions and encouraging student cooperation, you must also take the following safety steps:
- Whenever you approach train tracks, stop the bus between 15 and 50 feet of the closest rail. Look and listen carefully for trains and traffic, and cross only when you are sure there is no danger.
- If students have to cross the street before they enter or exit the bus, make them cross in front of the vehicle.
- Make sure that students use the handrails to enter or leave the vehicle.
- Keep the headlights on while driving, no matter the time.
- While driving, avoid wearing hoods, hats, and other items that restrict your vision.
- Keep calm while driving, no matter how stressful or dangerous it is. If the stress and anxiety become overwhelming, stop the bus and take the time to calm down.
- If the bus breaks down on train tracks, a busy road, or some other dangerous spot, evacuate the vehicle in a quick but orderly fashion.
While these tips will improve bus safety dramatically, some accidents are unavoidable. When these happen, the firm of Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers is on your side. As a team of top personal injury lawyers, we are committed to getting you the compensation you deserve for any work-related injury. For detailed assistance from a workers’ compensation attorney, auto accident attorney, or other work accident lawyer, call 713-364-0723 or visit our website today.