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Excuses won't bring a dead kid back to life

By James Kraemer

School buses are one of the safest ways to transport kids to and from school, about 2,000 times safer than the family car, according to the National School Transportation Association (NSTA). Yet, injuries on school buses are up...way up...from a decade or so ago.

Total pupil injuries on and around school buses have increased 94%, from 6,700 in 1985 to 13,000 injuries reported in 1996, by the National Safety Council. The pupil population riding our nation's school buses "has not fluctuated significantly over the past 20 years" and the number of actual accidents has remained largely unchanged in this decade of the 'nineties, according to a 1997 CNN report on "School Bus Injuries."

Kids unpredictable behaviors, poor or ineffective training on how to behave inside and outside the buses along with a lack of effective follow through from the adults involved, speeding, daring, unskilled or distracted drivers and frustration all have their part in injuring kids.

It costs money to train bus drivers how to effectively manage children. School district cost cutting efforts sometimes includes reducing, even eliminating bus driver student management training. Several states have intervened in this dangerous management decision, occurring in both the private and public sectors, with new regulations now requiring transportation departments to provide effective training. STS (Strategies Training Systems) and other student management instruction are making their way into transportation departments that refused to recognize the importance prior to the new regulations.

Over 30 percent of the accidents involving school buses are a direct or indirect result of bus driver distraction. The out-of control or over protective parent denies this danger and often attempts to minimize the danger a child (often their child) can create on the school bus when refusing to follow the bus driver's directions and practice courtesy toward other students and the driver. Everything from the bus driver is too picky (or too strict) to my child has a right and the bus driver has no right often spew out along with my poor repressed child routines. Kids pick up on the discord between the adults involved and quickly learn to manipulate parents against school staff ... and sometimes staff against staff.

The wise adults involved avoid criticizing the bus driver, the school, other kids or themselves for the child's decision to misbehave. They know that doing so can inadvertently give the child permission to escalate from perhaps a minor issue into a major one.

Informed adults also know the school bus is a controlled environment and the bus driver is the captain of that bus. An untrained or poorly trained bus driver is one that needs encouragement, effective training and help with the kids if that bus is to be a safe bus. Replacing the bus driver when the root problem is the misbehavior of some the kids and adults involved sets kids up for dangerous routines waiting to act out on the bus, in the school and in the home.

gif from hyden Another issue is the conduct of some motorists around school buses. School is in session and already school bus drivers are reporting motorists are speeding around stopped buses. 90 million motorists illegally pass stopped school buses each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some school districts are experimenting with dash cameras and many districts are asking for help from law enforcement to keep a watchful eye on the activities around school buses this year. Regardless of the decision some drivers make to go around a stopped bus with the red flashing lights activated please continue to do your part to help keep kids safe.

Make no kid killing excuses for anything you do around or concerning the school buses. Rather, the adults involved must work together, with mutual respect and a commitment to follow through with approprite and effective consequences for misbehavior, if they are to help insure kids have a safe ride on the bus this school year.

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Copyright 1998 James Kraemer. Click on this Copyright
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