Last year, school bus drivers in Michigan reported motorists running their bus’ flashing red lights at almost 39% of their bus stops. “That’s a staggering number of illegal passes.” – Phil Haldaman, Char-Em ISD Transportation Supervisor
Regular training exercises and equipment checks are part of the requirements for operating school buses, and Char-Em ISD transportation staff are committed to ensuring safety at every turn. Recently, 25 drivers and riders (who assist drivers while transporting students) held a training event in Petoskey, where they spent the day working on both driving and classroom activities.
“The weather was perfect and spirits were high as we worked through a number of different scenarios on the largest closed course available in the area, the Emmet County Fairgrounds’ parking lot,” said Phil Haldaman, transportation supervisor for Char-Em ISD. “At nearly 500 feet long, we had plenty of room to practice several key maneuvers utilizing four different school buses.”
In the parking lot, the staff trained on a course laid out to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that included a multi-cone ‘mirror grid;” straight-line driving forward and back through a 100-foot long tunnel using swiveled side markers; cornering around fixed obstructions; and 90-degree alley docking without breaking the plane of the reference cones with the bus. Haldaman said the drivers also practiced properly executing overhead red light student stops using 200- and 400-foot approach protocols; proper wheelchair loading, unloading and tie-down procedures; and also timed exercises where the drivers had to find what was intentionally altered to affect bus operations both inside and outside the vehicle.
In the classroom, the drivers and aides learned student behavior management using specific techniques, practiced evacuation drills, and reviewed driver safety reminders, among other activities.
Haldaman said while these types of training events occur annually, this year’s event was more elaborate and hands-on. It narrowed the beam of its focus to events that have recently surfaced as serious safety hazards on both a statewide and national scale.
“For example, in the U.S. there are about 17 million instances annually of motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus with its overhead red lights flashing; it’s an epidemic in our society,” Haldaman noted.
Statewide, Michigan’s 17,000 school buses drive over 900,000 miles a day transporting around 800,000 students to and from school. Last year, school bus drivers in Michigan reported motorists running their bus’ flashing red lights at almost 39% of their bus stops.
“That’s a staggering number of illegal passes,” Haldaman said. “That’s just one reason why we felt it was so important to remind our drivers and bus aides of what to watch out for during this year’s training event. Every exercise we performed, every one of our bus’ seven mirrors we checked for proper alignment, every successful pre-trip inspection that was accomplished all had one goal in mind: to ensure the safety of students we transport was being maintained to the highest possible level.”