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School Bus Drivers: Combating Distracted Driving

Thursday May 28, 2020

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Driving is one of the key areas where focus and concentration matters a lot and the same is more critical in the case of school bus drivers. Many accidents and fatalities are reported daily worldwide due to careless driving and one of the main reasons pointed out was distracted driving. An intentional or unintentional distraction from the part of the driver can cause loss of lives. That is why it is important for school management and authorities to come up with stringent measures to minimize the possibilities of distracted driving and assure a safe ride for students.

The reasons for distractions are many that include searching for the objects that dropped from hands, adjusting the mirror of the vehicle when driving, using mobile phones, eating or drinking and smoking. Students misbehaving in the bus can also easily divert the attention of the driver.

Here we are sharing a few of the important strategies, measures or tips that can help to combat distracted driving and thus save lives.

  • Always have Extra Adults onboard

Passengers can do a lot, to help the drivers to do their job peacefully without causing much distraction.

However, when passengers are students, it may not be possible always. That is why it is important to have one or two other adults on board who can take care of the student’s needs and keep them at peace.

This helps the driver concentrate on his job and avoid any mishaps.

  • Make Adjustments Before Starting the Bus

Drivers should be advised to make proper preparation and adjustments before starting a trip.

This can include adjusting mirrors, setting the destination point, and checking traffic ahead in maps or having enough water.

Fasten the seat belt and put in the sunglasses if needed. Also, see that sound system and climate controls are checked and seating is proper before the bus hits the road.

  • Provide Big Screens For Map Reference

It is quite common for drivers to check the maps in case they miss out on any routes or to check the upcoming traffic to plan the ride accordingly.

However, when they use their handsets or GPS devices for the purpose, the likelihood of distraction is more. To overcome the risk, schools can provide tablets with big screens to replace mobile phones.

  • Ban Cell Phone Usage while Driving

It is quite common among some drivers to use cell phones to check messages or make calls during the drive which can always turn out as a distraction. Schools can decide to ban mobile usage while driving as the best solution.

However, they can be allowed to use it in case of emergencies, but only once the bus is parked on a roadside. Cameras can make things easy for schools to have a check on the same.

  • Use Hands-Free Technology

Some schools help drivers by taking important calls midway or adjust the music volume or check the maps using hands-free technology.

It may not be possible to stop the bus all of a sudden to the roadside to check all this manually when there is heavy traffic or with bigger buses.

However, even these options can turn out as distractions as they lack the alertness when the focus gets shifted.

  • Adopt a School Bus Safety Code or Code of Conduct

Just like in classrooms, students should be provided with a basic code of conduct which helps them to set boundaries to their acts when on the bus.

A misbehaving kid can distract a driver that can put lives of everyone on the bus at risk.

Those violating the rules can be given progressive punishments to make them aware of the importance of behaving well in bus. Authorities can adopt seating charts and post rules on each bus that help the students to get reminded of the dos and don’ts.

  • Arrange Training and Role-Playing Sessions for Drivers

Rather than giving advice, conduct training sessions with role plays, common types of distractions, and ways to overcome them to make them more aware. This can help drivers to boost their performance level.

  • Monitor Driver Behavior

After all, everybody is a human being and we cannot expect cent percent commitment and discipline from everyone without giving an external push.

That is why it is important to employ some means to monitor driver behavior during the trips.

Camera surveillance or similar options can help schools to keep track of their behavior.

When drivers have it in mind that they are being monitored, it comes naturally from them to go by the code of conduct and stop them from involving in any unsafe deeds.

  • Implement Technology to Improve Safety

A combination of tactics is always a good strategy and that is why many schools are even getting the assistance of technology to improve driver safety.

Safety engineers have introduced systems to help drivers to avoid crashes.

The side and rear vision cameras are built to help them to handle the blind spots. The microwave technology is another option to give an indication of objects or persons behind when bus is in reverse mode.

  • Assure Drivers get adequate Rest and Eat well

The proper well being of the driver is important and that has a lot to do with their focus and attention during the driving.

Make sure that they get enough rest before they drive to avoid sleepy drives. Similarly, see that they eat well and stay hydrated and keep up good health which will boost their performance level.

Also Read: How many seats are there in a school bus?

  • Awareness is the Key

Safety behind the wheel needs more importance at any given time even when there are some distractions that are not in the driver control.

Experts say that awareness is always the key and the lack of proper messaging from authorities or the absence of basic safety knowledge among drivers are creating problems most of the time.

Schools should take initiatives to arrange some awareness programs for their drivers to ensure possible safety measures.

Here are some important Safety Tips for Drivers

  • While driving, pay complete attention to it, and never give an ear for distractions, focus should be completely on driving only and let nothing else to distract you.
  • Use mirrors to scan the road and watch out for pedestrians or cyclists.
  • Never let your electronic gadgets distract you, unless you have an emergency.
  • Avoid multitasking and stop the bus aside if you have something urgent.
  • It is always good to observe traffic defensively and analyze the possible things that other drivers might do
  • Carefully visualize the route before you start and plan for what you are about to do
  • Make sure that there is enough braking space between the bus and other vehicles in front of the bus
  • Always try to maintain a safety circle around the bus
  • Keep on reminding yourself that you have an added responsibility of transporting a group of students
  • Always stay focused and drive mindfully despite whatever personal problems trouble you.

There can be external distractions, of which you may not have any control. However, in most cases, lack of training of the driver in handling the distractions was found out as the reason for mishaps. School authorities can definitely help drivers to be more alert on many instances such as by updating them on the scheduled road works or construction zones.

According to some statistics, about 100s of people are injured and 9 people die every day on America’s roads.

The case may not be very much different in other parts of the world. Just imagine how can a careless mistake compromise with a person’s right to live and spoil his/her family’s dreams.

Accidents can happen anytime to anyone but everyone should do their part to minimize the cases that happen due to carelessness.

That is why it is important for school authorities to consider doing their part to minimize the likelihood of distracted driving.