Students at Albemarle County Public Schools had the day off Friday, but some of their bus drivers were still behind the wheel, all to showcase their talents.
It's called the "Road-eo." It's not your typical rodeo, but it's a competition that's giving bus drivers for Albemarle County Public Schools the chance to sharpen their skills.
After completing a safety inspection, bus drivers buckle up and head out to an obstacle course where they face challenges similar to what they run into every day on the job.
"These buses are very large vehicles, and getting around corners is difficult," said Jason Rockwell, an activity driver for the county.
Judges score them on everything from parallel parking to railroad crossing, but it's not just about recognizing the most skilled drivers. It's also an opportunity for feedback and identifying areas for improvement.
"When we strengthen our drivers' skills, it's a win-win for everybody," said Charmane White, assistant transportation director for Albemarle County Public Schools. "We are able to transport [students] safely, and we are also able to be safe out on the road even for other drivers."
Children are eight times safer in a school bus than riding to school with a parent, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
About 70 percent of students at Albemarle County Public Schools take the school bus. School officials say they hope to see that number increase.
"When our drivers are safe, our students are safe," said White.
This is the third year the county has held the event. The winners of Friday's school bus "Road-eo" go on to take part in a statewide competition in Richmond.
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