The safest transportation in the U.S. becomes safer |

The safest transportation in the U.S. becomes safer

Frank Fisher, of the Record staff

The school bus driver yelled, "Brace yourselves!" The elementary students reached for the seat backs resting their heads on their crossed arms. Had this been a real emergency, the kids would have been taking the safest position on one of the safest forms of transportation in the country.

During National School Bus Safety Week, which occurs every year in the third week of October, Brent Chaston, the director of transportation at the Park City School District, teaches students of all four district elementary schools how to be safe on and around school buses.

In a report made to Congress in 2002, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration presented information stating school-bus travel is one of the safest forms of transportation in the U.S., eight times safer than being transported by parents. Four hundred and fifty thousand school buses transport 23.5 million kids to school every day. But much of the potential danger students face is outside of the buses.

The drivers of the 28 Park City School District buses available for the 19 routes receive extensive training, including anti-terrorist training. They also learn to watch for vehicles following buses, that could contain predators. Drivers have a list and photos of known predators.

Chaston said that, when students become pedestrians, they face a number of dangers including drivers being unable to see them, predators, and not dressing properly for cold weather.

He said that drivers can cause accidents with student pedestrians. "People see a bus stopping and they try to beat the bus by going around it," Chaston said. "The public doesn’t realize kids could be crossing in front of the bus. You can see the potential for disaster."

On Wednesday, Chaston took McPolin Elementary School students out to several buses to demonstrate safety procedures. Kids took five steps away from buses. "Five steps is about 10 feet, and you should always stand at least that far away from a bus," he said, adding that bus drivers have blind spots in their mirrors where kids any closer could be out of view.

Chaston invited the students onto a bus and had them take seats. He trained them on safety procedures much as airline passengers are briefed before flight. Many of the McPolin students do not ride the bus, but were given the training in the event they take field trips or ride the bus when they attend other schools.

Studies have found that school buses are safer for students without lap seat belts. Padded seat backs and strong-framed seats provide a protective compartmentalized unit for students in an impact situation. Buses have roll bars at every window, and have three major safety exits as well as windows. School buses also have excellent brakes.

"Our percentage of injuries is practically zero, Chaston said.

The Park City School District transportation phone number is 645-5660.

The points Chaston wanted students to always remember were:

Stay 10 feet away from the bus.

Arrive five minutes early and be in line at the bus stop before the bus arrives. (He advises students not to get to stops sooner than that because of concerns about predators and cold weather.

Call transportation if the bus is more than 10 minutes late.

Watch for the driver’s signal before crossing the road as a group in front of the bus the only safe place to cross a bus.

The bus will leave school seven minutes after the final bell.

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