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3 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND use in vehicles (e.g., cell phones, DVD players, and onboard navigational systems), school bus drivers are dealing with Each weekday during the school year, school transportation an increase in inattentive and distracted motorists. The school systems in the United States operate approximately 440,000 bus driver must also manage an increased occurrence of yellow school buses to provide safe and reliable transpor- "bullying" and other negative interactions among students. tation for more than 24 million school-aged children (School Finally, the security of school bus operations and its riders has Bus Informational Council 2008). This large transportation become ever more important in today's world and presents system is considered the largest mass transit program in the unique challenges for school bus drivers. nation, with more than 55 million student trips per day ("School Bus Safety Overview" 2008), which equates to approximately Even with these unique stressors, school bus drivers con- 10 billion student trips per year (Pupil Transportation Facts tinue to perform these duties every school day; however, there 2008). The annual transportation costs, on average, are $520 is a toll on this transportation system. For years, school bus per regular education child and $2,400 per special needs drivers have been in short supply, with estimates of a 21% education child across the United States ("School Bus Safety annual turnover rate (National School Transportation Associ- Overview" 2008). ation n.d.). In an October 2007 survey conducted by School Bus Fleet magazine, 89% of the respondents reported experi- As with any large transportation system, there is signifi- encing a school bus driver shortage, with 60% indicating their cant exposure to vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian driver shortages as moderate to desperate (Hirano 2007). incidents. Every year, on average, 20 school-aged children (i.e., younger than 19) are fatality injured as the result of To improve the safety and operational conditions of the school transportation-related incidents (School Transportation- school transportation system, a better understanding of the pri- Related Crashes 2006). However, the school transportation mary areas for improvement is needed. As a group, the school system is considered one of the safest forms of transportation bus drivers and the school transportation industry provide the (Pupil Transportation Facts 2008), with the National Safety best source for identifying, understanding, and remedying Council reporting an overall school bus accident rate of these areas in need of improvement. Therefore, the goal of 0.01 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled, as compared with this work was to gather this information from these different 0.04 for trains, 0.06 for commercial aviation, and 0.96 for other groups and consolidate the findings into one comprehensive passenger vehicles ("School Bus Safety Overview" 2008). report which decision makers can use to address issues and concerns to improve school-related transportation. At the core of this transportation system are more than 455,000 school bus drivers (Occupational Outlook Hand- book 2007) who are responsible for the safe and effective OBJECTIVES AND SCOPE conveyance of students to and from school, field trips, and athletic events. During these trips, this special class of pro- The objective of this synthesis is to document current infor- fessional drivers encounters many unique challenges and mation on the various safety issues encountered by school bus safety concerns. In addition to being responsible for perhaps operators, including how the issues are currently addressed, the nation's most precious cargo, school bus drivers face a barriers to improvements, and suggestions for making further wide range of distractions, and are subject to upholding laws improvements. This synthesis includes a literature review and performing many tasks that are well beyond the normal and a peer-reviewed survey on school bus safety issues that professional driving duties. For instance, school bus drivers was disseminated to a variety of professionals associated with must be knowledgeable about school transportation policies school bus operations. and route planning, possess some mechanical aptitude, and be a healthcare provider and disciplinarian to their passen- The purpose of the survey was to gain the perspectives gers. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil and insight of school transportation subject-matter experts Transportation Services (School Bus Drivers . . . 2000) noted regarding school bus safety and security issues. The pri- that the demands on school bus drivers have increased in mary audience for the synthesis study is school bus fleet recent years owing to changes in various social conditions. safety managers, school superintendents, and transporta- For example, with the increasing popularity of technology tion researchers; however, enforcement agencies, school
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4 bus contractors, school bus manufacturers, and parent orga- nizations may also find this information useful as well. To ensure that all aspects of school bus safety and security Driver Technology are addressed, an adaptation of the Socio-Technical Systems (STS; Emery and Trist 1960) model has guided the concep- tualization and organization of this synthesis report. This adaptation of the STS focuses on four main subsystems asso- Organizational Design ciated with transportation safety (see Figure 1) and how these subsystems interact with and influence one another. These four subsystems are: (1) the driver, (2) the driving environ- Environment ment (e.g., road conditions, passengers, and other drivers), (3) technology/equipment, and (4) organizational design (e.g., FIGURE 1 Socio-technical systems model (Emery and Trist 1960). policies and regulations).