Safety for School Buses

By: Whitney Holmes
By: Whitney Holmes

In response to school bus accidents such as the one in Louisa County, there is a protocol to ensure safety and to notify parents of any accident.

For Albemarle County, it starts first in Willie Smith's Department of Transportation, where staff is dispatched to the accident and work with EMT and police to gather the proper information. Back at the office, a chain of communication is launched to get this information to the right people.

"We provide the schools as many names as we can so they can contact the parents. In addition, we are in contact with the central office," explained Smith. The central office includes the Superintendent. The chain of communication also extends to hospitals and provides support services to families affected by the crash.

To eliminate the possibility of this communication chain being put into use, school bus drivers undergo a rigorous background check before being hired and just as rigorous a training schedule when they are.

"Each driver you see driving a school bus has a minimum of 48 hours of training. Here in Albemarle County, it's much more than that," said Smith. "The important thing here is that each driver receives extensive training in areas such as CPR, first aid and these kinds of things."

Some parents say they have complete confidence in the bus drivers, but what they don't have confidence in are the other drivers on the road.

"I have three kids in the city schools and I have been very pleased with the bus drivers. They have always been conscientious," said parent Arthur Lichtenberger. "If I do have a concern, it is with the cars that are going by that are not stopping for the bright yellow flashing lights."

Smith said this hazard has been a tough one to defeat. "The number of people that actually drive through our stop signs, our flashing red lights [is high]. Despite our best efforts of working with the police department and the judicial system, it continues."

However, Lichtenberger has a suggestion to crack down on this crime. "The city might consider handing out one of those disposable cameras to bus drivers, so they can turn around and take a picture of the departing car and forward that information on to the police," the parent suggested.

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