North Carolina residents and schools have been invited to participate in the American School Bus Council’s Love the Bus campaign. Gov. Pat McCrory also proclaimed Feb. 11 through 15 as “School Bus Driver Appreciation Week” and he urges all school communities and citizens to recognize the excellence of the state’s school bus drivers and their record of safety.
School bus safety is an integral part of the education process. Without safe transport to and from schools, our children could not participate in the learning process. More than 13,400 yellow buses travel North Carolina roads each morning to safely transport 790,000 students to school. Yet very few people give a second thought to the drivers behind the wheels who take on this important responsibility each day.
School bus transportation is the safest form of mass transportation in the United State, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Driving a school bus is eight times safer than riding with a parent or guardian in a car. Even with these numbers, three Robeson County school buses have been rear-ended by motorists since December. All were minor injuries, but some students were taken to the hospital.
The Public Schools of Robeson County transports approximately 14,389 children per day, with 270 school buses traveling approximately 15,000 miles a day. These numbers are crucial on days when inclement weather poses a hazard for students. Administrators weigh the cost of delaying school hours or sometimes cutting the day short. The public is often unaware that Robeson County still has many rural roads where few cars travel, yet buses pass morning and evening. Some bus drivers travel as far as Scotland County and will not finish their routes until almost 5 p.m. On a day when snow is forecasted to begin in the afternoon, bus drivers might still be on the road and in harm’s way if not for the critical thinking by administrators.
Bus drivers often multi-task more than any other drivers. They must watch for cars as they prepare to load children, watch the child cross, check behind the bus and maintain eye contact on children seated on the bus. While most never receive accolades, these drivers are credited with saving lives every day across the state. The most dangerous time for a student is the loading time. As a child prepares to cross the road, there is a stop arm and an eight-light system, but the motoring public still sometimes fails to stop. Bus drivers maintain a close eye contact with the children just in case they need to yell for a child to stop walking.
For all they do, bus drivers are worthy of much praise by parents, the school system and the community. T
This week, schools will hold socials for drivers. Children are writing thank you cards and letters and so much more to recognize bus drivers. More than anything, the motoring public is reminded of the need to be cautious around buses and the special cargo they carry. I salute all of our drivers and say thank you.
Johnny Hunt is superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County.