MILLEDGEVILLE — The transportation department of the Baldwin County public school system is highly encouraging student bus riders, parents and school personnel to take extra precaution when near or traveling on school buses as the school year kicks off Friday.
This year, around 120 employees within the transportation department are responsible for approximately 3,000 school youth. School Transportation Director Donald Tuft said the top priority for all bus drivers and aides is the safety of children and others.
“We’re asking everyone to continue following the rules of the road. We haul precious cargo everyday, twice a day,” he said. “If we have cooperation with students and cooperation with parents, then everything will be smooth again this year.”
According to the American School Bus Council (ASBC), school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury. As mandated by the Georgia Department of Education, all drivers are required to pass a physical, random driving record checks and alcohol and drug testing, and training in student discipline management, loading and unloading, security procedures and emergency medical procedures.
“We had our annual mandated state training in July,” Tuft said after drivers, aides and other transportation employees refreshed their minds of the state meeting during back to school orientation Wednesday. “The biggest issue we have is traffic, especially during the first couple of weeks of school. With West Campus Drive closed to Highway 22, we’re encouraging all drivers to make a right turn onto Blandy Road.”
ASBC research also shows that school buses keep an annual estimated 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning. One school bus on the road is equivalent to 36 cars, for a national savings of $6 billion and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel.
Here are few simple safety guidelines students and parents should follow when using caution in and around the school bus:
• Students must keep themselves out of the “danger zone.” The danger zone is the 12-foot area that surrounds a stopped school bus where the bus driver might not see students, or where cars might be moving when students are getting on and off the bus.
• Students must get to the bus stop 5 to 10 minutes prior to the bus arriving.
• Students should remain seated until the bus comes to a full stop and keep the aisles clear.
• Students must avoid loud or disruptive behavior that could distract the bus driver from safely operating the school bus.
• Students should never place their head, arms or any object out of the window.
• Students must never return to the school bus for items left or dropped without getting the bus driver’s attention first.
• Parents with headstart children must be “hand in hand” when loading and unloading students on and off the bus.
• Always stay away from the front and rear tires of the school bus.
“We’re ready and excited the school year. This is my 18th year as the transportation department supervisor. We had a lot of motorists run the school bus stop sign, but we had no accidents or fatalities," Tuft said. "As long as students follow drivers’ instructions, especially when loading and unloading the school bus, everyone will be safe.”
For more information about school bus safety, visit www.doe.k12.ga.us.