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20 CHAPTER FIVE CONCLUSIONS This synthesis report provides an overview of current safety for improving safety; however, not all school districts/fleets issues in the field of pupil transportation as identified in rele- can afford additional staff members to handle such responsi- vant safety journals, trade and government publications, and bility. Another consideration within this issue is the potential Internet sites, as well as research findings from a widely dis- lack of qualified applicants to fill monitor positions. Besides seminated survey on school bus safety. The peer-reviewed sur- rating monitor turnover (which was not perceived as a rela- vey questionnaire was designed based on the Socio-Technical tively important issue as it was ranked 45 of 51 of the overall Systems model of transportation safety to explore each aspect safety issues), this survey did not directly address hiring issues of school bus operations, including the driver, environment, related to monitors/aides. This may be an important issue to equipment/technology, and organizational design. Survey address in future research. respondents included school bus drivers, fleet managers, train- ers, mechanics, transportation specialists, and a variety of other Other funding issues noted were related to driver training positions relevant to school bus operations. and equipment/technology upgrades and maintenance. These issues are discussed in more detail here. The main objective of this synthesis effort was to identify the most relevant safety issues and explore perceived barri- Law Enforcement and Public Education ers to making improvements as well as potential solutions. It is clear that although there are a variety of safety issues in Many respondents believe that given the frequency of illegal pupil transportation, those regarded as the most severe by passing of buses by other motorists, that there is insufficient survey respondents include illegal passing of buses by other police attention to such issues as they are happening, as well as motorists, the behavior of passengers both on the bus and a lack of prosecution once violators are reported. Some survey while loading/unloading, and driver skill level. In addition, respondents believe that there is need for educating the public there appears to be growing concern regarding security and regarding such laws. For example, some survey respondents violence issues on the school bus and at bus stops. believe that other motorists seem unsure of whether they are allowed to pass buses, thus "creeping" past the bus. Other BARRIERS AND SOLUTIONS motorists appear to believe that the stop signal arms on buses TO IMPROVING SAFETY are to be treated like regular stop signs, whereby the driver only has to come to a momentary complete stop before pro- Survey respondents believe that barriers to improved safety in ceeding past the bus, even if the stop signal arm is still school bus operations consist mainly of inadequate funding; a deployed and the loading or unloading of children is still lack of strict law enforcement and public awareness of laws; occurring. and insufficient support from administrators and parents to improve safety and intervene with the problem behavior of students. Support from School Administration, Parents, and Fleet Management Funding When responding to the open-ended question regarding bar- riers to safety, some survey respondents expressed frustra- In terms of funding, many survey respondents believe the typ- tion with a lack of follow-through with student disciplinary ical salary for a school bus driver is insufficient given the level actions, particularly on the behalf of school administration. of responsibilities and roles the drivers must fill. Increasing For example, it may be the case that problem students are not school bus driver pay may reduce turnover and decrease the being disciplined enough to discourage future behavioral amount of funding needed for new hiring procedures and train- issues. ing. Many respondents also believe that the amount of passen- ger monitoring and discipline necessary on the bus is too much Some respondents indicated that more parental involve- for one individual to take on alone, especially while simul- ment is needed to make parents aware of their children's taneously attempting to monitor the driving environment. behavioral problems and to work with school administrators Therefore, school bus monitors/aides are seen as a necessity and bus drivers to derive solutions for addressing such issues
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21 on a student-by-student basis. Suggestions were made to are useful for successful route navigation, thus eliminating include training and education for parents regarding behav- driver stress and distraction from being lost, as well as for ioral issues relevant to school transportation and how to security issues if a situation arises where administrators need effectively teach and/or discipline their children when behav- to know the exact locations of their vehicles. ioral issues are reported. Other useful and needed technologies mentioned included Finally, survey respondents believe that fleet managers passenger monitoring to detect whether all students are should improve training, increase supervision and monitor- accounted for at the appropriate time, so that no passengers ing of drivers, ensure maintenance issues are resolved, and are left behind on the bus if they have fallen asleep during the make efforts to educate the public regarding school bus safety. route. Some survey respondents indicated a need for sensors In addition, six respondents believe fleet managers are respon- around the vehicle to detect objects or pedestrians in the path sible for creating and maintaining a safety culture among their of the vehicle, thus adding a layer of protection that mirrors fleet. This means making safety a priority, setting a safe exam- themselves cannot provide. Finally, a recurrent theme was the ple, and improving communication regarding safety issues to need for diagnostic programs to aid drivers in detecting main- drivers on an individual basis as well as in group meetings. tenance issues with their vehicles, thus providing a more com- prehensive inspection of the vehicles pre- and post-trip. Training Other aspects of equipment survey respondents mentioned as needing improvement included seat design for both the One somewhat conflicting result from the survey is that drivers (ergonomics) and passengers (reduced seat height for when asked how thorough driver training procedures are, a better view of the passengers), as well as evacuation-related the average response was less than 7 = "Very thorough" improvements (e.g., emergency exits on the floor in case of (see Table 16). However, improved driver training was rec- roll-over, and ramps or slides on emergency exits). ognized throughout the open-ended responses as a necessity to increasing safety. A need for more, if not improved, behind- One interesting finding from the survey is that the issue of the-wheel training and defensive driving skills training seemed mandatory seat belt use of passengers did not receive much to be a recurrent theme in survey responses. Another gen- attention, and when it did, the frequency of positive and neg- eral training issue recognized was a need for drivers to have ative remarks was nearly equal. For example, when asked improved "people skills" (e.g., communication) in dealing about what federal or state regulations should be made (see with students, parents, and administration to handle behav- Table 31), eight respondents indicated that seat belts should ioral issues and discipline, as well as the reporting of inci- not be mandatory, although six respondents believed they dents, safety/discipline concerns, and mechanical issues. Some should be. It is not clear whether these respondents were in a survey responses included the suggestion for training relevant district where seat belts are mandatory or not, which would to stress management skills for school bus drivers to help them have been an interesting comparison if that information were cope with frustrations and effectively handle various situations available. Those opposing mandatory seat belts appeared to with students, parents, and other motorists. Finally, there were be mostly concerned about whose responsibility it would be respondents who believe that additional specific training is to verify that passengers are buckled up, whereas those who needed in the areas of special needs students (interacting with, advocated mandatory seat belts believe it would save lives loading/unloading, and evacuation procedures for special and would also make the high seat backs less of a necessity, needs children) and school bus security. thus improving the view of passengers and their behavior. Finally, in terms of equipment, it is interesting that when Technology/Equipment asked what level of compliance the drivers in their fleet have for performing pre-trip inspections, many respondents Survey respondents recognized how various technological reported that fewer than half of the drivers do so. Possible advances [e.g., cameras, global positioning systems (GPS), solutions to improve compliance with this important issue and improved mirror design] have improved driving safety, included increased supervision/monitoring of drivers to ensure yet many school districts and fleets lack the funding to that they complete the inspections, provision of diagnostic include such technologies in their buses, let alone maintain equipment, increased training, and additional incentives (e.g., and upgrade their current equipment. Cameras on the bus are more pay) to complete the inspections. useful for monitoring student behavior and dealing with dis- cipline issues, while cameras exterior to the bus are useful for reporting illegal passing and other risky driving behaviors Organizational Design by motorists sharing the roadway. Improved mirror housing designs and placements eliminate blind spots and allow the Some of the major organizational design issues included the driver to have a better feel for the driving environment when location and/or quality of bus stops. For example, of the 51 changing lanes, pulling into traffic, scanning for pedestrians, overall safety issues rated, "lack of sidewalks at or near bus backing up, etc. GPS and automatic vehicle locator devices stops" was ranked as number 11, "bus stops on major high-