By Kayleigh Rahn
Slow down and give them space.
Those are at least two of the reminders, Shane Gould, president of Gould Transportation, has for the community as area students head back to class.
With four school districts including 2,000 students to transport daily, Gould Transportation takes school bus safety seriously. And the 2019-2020 school year is no different.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, the school bus is the safest vehicle on the road.
“Your child is much safer taking a bus to and from school than traveling by car,” the department says. “Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school. That’s because school buses are the most regulated vehicle on the road; they’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every state, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists.”
However, the safe arrival for all students relies on all motorists and riders to follow laws and protocols.
“Slow down and stop if you’re driving near a school bus that is flashing yellow or red lights,” said Gould who has started his 33rd year behind the wheel. “This means the bus is either preparing to stop (yellow) or already stopped (red) and children are getting on or off. The stop sign arm on the bus should be treated as a normal traffic control device. It works just like a traffic light.”
It’s estimated that more than 10 million drivers illegally pass school buses every year throughout the country.
“It happens to us a time or two per week; it’s here in town as much as it is on the highway,” Gould said. Five of Gould’s buses are equipped with cameras that record passing vehicles in an effort to identify and ultimately deter illegal passers.
Gould also reminds motorists to keep an eye out for school buses during all hours of the day as events, games, and activities keep buses out well past traditional school hours.
“If the kids are going, we are going too,” Gould said.
Safety isn’t just for motorists, as Gould encourages parents of bus riders to continue to share safety tips while at home, as well.
“Parents need to help us help them,” Gould said. “Hearing it from the parents helps rather than just hearing from us. The repetition of hearing it can only help.”
The US Department of Transportation suggests:
• Younger children should be supervised at the bus stop.
• Children who rush are particularly vulnerable; get to the bus stop early.
• Show children how to remain three giant steps away from the road until the bus comes to a complete stop and the door is open.
• Children should never walk behind a school bus.
• Teach children to wait until no cars are coming from either direction before they cross the street.
• Make eye contact with the driver and wait for the OK signal to cross the road.
• Explain to children why conversations and playtime should wait until they are safely seated.
• If a child drops something outside the school bus, tell them to never try to pick it up. They should always tell the driver and wait for his or her instructions.
• Children should not yell while riding the school bus.
Gould employs 43 individuals with 42 eligible drivers who participate in monthly safety meetings throughout the school year, which is nine times more than the state required annual safety meeting.
“Bus drivers aren’t perfect,” Gould said. “We have to look at, around, and through a lot not only outside the bus but inside the bus, as well. I feel it’s that important. I have to live in this town, and I don’t want to have to look people in the eye and be responsible for their kids not coming home that night. I just love kids, and we do everything we can to make our buses safe so if they are in an accident that bus and the equipment on that bus works at its optimal capacity.
“It’s a privilege and an honor doing this job,” Gould added. “I feel like I have one of the best jobs in town.”