School Bus Safety Week is held each year during the second and third week of October. On Oct. 7, Ronceverte Elementary School was privileged to have George Brooks II, director of transportation for Greenbrier County Schools, and David Alderman, bus driver, to present a program on school bus safety to its students.
“Prevention is the best solution to the issue of school-bus safety,” Books said. Brooks used video, posters and handouts to engage the students. He and Alderman also provided time for questions and answers at the end of the program.
School transportation is the single largest and safest system of public transportation in the United States, resulting in over 94.2 billion total pupil-passenger miles per year. Approximately 22.5 million school-age children ride school buses to and from school. After-school activities provide an estimated 5 million additional daily student rides.
In Greenbrier County there are 72 regular bus routes, and 4,140 students are transported daily. Greenbrier County buses travel approximately 4,750 miles per day to and from school. Just to give you an idea of what that distance is, if you drove from Lewisburg to San Francisco, CA, and back to St. Louis, MO, you would have traveled 4,729 miles. That is across country and two-thirds of the way back. Only one-third of this travel is on main highways and two-thirds is on secondary roads, some which are one-lane roads and even unpaved.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, from 2004 to 2013 there were 327 school-age children who died in school-transportation-related crashes; 54 were occupants of school transportation vehicles, 147 were occupants of other vehicles, 116 were pedestrians, and 9 were pedal-cyclists. There were more school-age pedestrians killed between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m. and between 3 and 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.
Since 2001 there were 363,839 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 1,236 (0.34 percent) were classified as school transportation-related. Since 2001, 1,368 people have died in school transportation-related crashes – an average of 137 fatalities per year. Occupants of school transportation vehicles accounted for 7 percent of the fatalities, and non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.) accounted for 21 percent of the fatalities. Most (72 percent) of the people who lost their lives in these crashes were occupants of other vehicles involved. Since 2001, 123 school-age pedestrians (younger than 19) have died in school transportation-related crashes. Over two-thirds (69 percent) were struck by school buses, 5 percent by vehicles functioning as school buses, and 26 percent by other vehicles involved in the crashes. There were 49 (40 percent) school-age pedestrians killed in school transportation-related crashes between the age of five and seven.
Children and their parents, as well as educators and community members, need to be aware of the risks involved with children and school buses. Motorists also need to obey all state regulations regarding driving in the vicinity of school buses and their designated drop-off zones.
School bus drivers often report they are overwhelmed by what they see as students’ lack of respect and failure to follow school bus rules and regulations. Typically, a large school bus transports 54 students; a number of students far in excess of what a certified teacher would be permitted to supervise without assistance. Yet, bus drivers are confronted with this task on a daily basis across the country.
Ronceverte Elementary teacher Deborah Johnson said, “I wish children would understand that riding on the bus is a privilege, and they should respect their driver and their surrounds.”
Greenbrier County has 72 regular bus operators and 33 substitutes all of which are highly trained and are required to have a federal background check. Drivers are also required to have yearly physicals and a physical performance test, along with a re-certification test.
“All our buses have a four or six camera digital video system on board, which helps with student discipline, driver evaluations and training,” stated Brooks.
For more information on how your school or organization can schedule a program on Bus Safety, contact Brooks at The Greenbrier County Board of Education office, 304-647-6461.