School Bus Operations Expert Article

School bus drivers have specific responsibilities for protecting the safety of students and the public. In this article, Jeffrey Boesger discusses the standard of care for school bus operators as it relates to student transportation.

School Bus Driver Expert Witness Investigations

School Bus Driver Standards

Among the many duties of a school bus driver, those which involve the visibility of students when they board, ride-in, and exit the bus, are critical. In addition, bus drivers have additional responsibilities for reinforcing safe behavior at bus stops, on the bus and as mandated reporters for suspected incidents of abuse.

Routes and Passenger Safety

When a new school year starts, bus drivers have a lot to learn, beginning with memorizing and timing their route. This entails learning the stops, identifying potential safety hazards along the route, and identifying possible detours should the driver ever need to deviate from their prescribed route. This is accomplished by learning the local roads and conducting trial runs of the route, often in their assigned bus.

In addition, drivers need to know how many students are expected to board their bus at each stop and, when appropriate, if any of their passengers have medical conditions, allergies, or special needs that may require additional attention or interventions. Drivers also need to know the safest location for students to wait for the bus, and to correct students who wait elsewhere.

If hazards or dangerous conditions exist regarding the safety of the route, the established bus stops, or the behavior of the students, drivers are expected to escalate issues through their established reporting structure.

Stopping Procedures

School bus drivers are instructed to follow specific stopping protocols to ensure the safety of the children and other pedestrians. The transportation industry recognizes that a significant risk exists when passing motor vehicles fail to stop in a timely manner at the bus-mounted stop sign.

When approaching a stop, bus drivers manually activate amber warning lights to alert other motor vehicles of their impending action. Prior to stopping, the driver is checking oncoming traffic, identifying where the students are, how many students are present at the stop, and looking for late arriving students or parents that may come from any direction.

Once the bus has stopped fully, the driver will proceed to open the door which automatically activates the flashing red lights as well as the side-mounted stop sign (some buses have stop signs mounted in the front near the driver and the rear of the bus), as well as a crossing arm if they are so equipped.

If students cross the street from their stop to board the bus, the driver must ensure that traffic has stopped before signaling the students to cross. The driver also must count how many students are approaching the bus and verify that all the students have boarded the bus before proceeding.

Before closing the door, the driver must check all their mirrors to ensure there are no late students approaching the bus, that all students have been seated, and that the surrounding traffic remains stopped. If all is clear they close the door, re-check their side mirrors, and proceed to the next stop.

Student Supervision

Student supervision may vary on a school bus. There may be circumstances whereby an individual student has been provided a specific aide based on their needs or when a district has identified the need for a bus attendant to assist in the behavioral management of the group of passengers. In any case, the bus driver has the overall responsibility of maintaining the safety of the passengers on the bus.

Many modern school buses are equipped with cameras, often in the rear of the bus facing forwards, the front of the bus facing rearwards, and a camera behind the driver’s blind spot over their shoulder. Cameras have become a powerful tool for documenting student behavior, but they are not a substitute for supervision from the bus driver.

Establishing rules and maintaining student behavior is critical to the safe operations of the bus. If a behavioral incident or child injury occurs on the bus, the bus driver is responsible for reporting it to the school district or contracted third-party transportation company.

This reporting is typically documented in a manner that allows the school district to provide student discipline or other corrective action or medical treatment if needed, to the parties involved.

School Bus Operations Experts

Through our School Bus Drivers, Directors of School Bus Transportation in both public and private sectors, Management of School Bus Systems, School Administrators, Special Education Pupil Personnel, and experts that develop the policies and procedures affecting school bus safety, Robson Forensic has the capacity to address all avenues of investigations and litigation involving student safety.

For more information, submit an inquiry or call us at 800.813.6736.

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