Synovia Solutions Blog

Educating Parents on School Bus Stop Safety

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 @ 02:08 PM

students lining up at busAs a parent, you obviously want to protect your child(ren). It begins from their first day of Kindergarten and lasts well past their high school graduation. 

Part of your role as a parent includes educating your child about the world, including how to be more safe. So prior to their first day of school, we recommend that you learn the following rules of bus stop safety so that you can then, in turn, pass on your education to your students. 

  • Parents and guardians should walk children to the bus stop and wait there with them until the school bus has arrived (preferably after the school bus has pulled away). Model good behavior by walking on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, you should walk on the side of oncoming traffic.
  • Always arrive at the bus stop about five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • Even if students are running late, they should never run to the bus. Teach them to walk safely instead of running like banchees. (Then you likely need to teach them what a banchee is.) Most likely, the school bus driver will see them, so there’s no need to rush and risk getting hurt.
  • In the event that there’s some waiting time at the bus stop, roughhousing is discouraged. There’s no need to pick fights before 8:00 a.m. (Or ever, for that matter.)
  • While at the bus stop, students should wait approximately 10 feet (or 5 giant steps) away from the road.
  • Wait for the bus to come to a full and complete stop before boarding or exiting.
  • Watch for red flashing lights and the stop sign to be extended, and cross only when all traffic has stopped. Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street (if necessary).
  • Teach your children to take a seat right away on the bus, to remain seated facing forward, and to always listen to the bus driver.
  • Encourage your children to never speak to strangers (or especially get in the car with one) at the bus stop. 
  • Once off the bus, children are expected to always go straight home and tell parents if a stranger tries to talk to you or pick you up.
By educating your kids on safety rules, you are setting them up to have a safe and solid start to school. 
How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: safety, k-12, school bus

Are your bus drivers prepared for an emergency?

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Oct 08, 2013 @ 10:07 AM

shutterstock 65624194Emergencies happen; sadly, all too often, which is why it's important to be prepared. If you're a Transportation Director or an Assistant Superintendent, you need to ask yourself, "Are our bus drivers prepared for an emergency?"

In the event of a bus emergency, drivers can help fire and medical personnel and enhance the safety of their passengers during accidents or other serious incidents by the following: 

Being certified in CPR and first aid

Bus drivers usually have regular contact with the passengers on their buses. Thus, drivers becoming familiar with their students' medical histories and/or recent illnesses or conditions can be useful information, particularly if a student becomes sick on board (or in the event of an emergency). It's equally important for drivers to be trained in first aid and CPR since they have initial contact with their passengers. Basic first aid and CPR training can be obtained through numerous organizations, including the American Red Cross or your local fire department. During this training, drivers learn how to handle medical and trauma emergencies, including bleeding control, shock, respiratory and cardiac arrest, seizures, diabetes-related problems, hypo- and hyperthermia, and spinal precautions. Obviously, a driver never hopes to use these, but it's important that they have the knowledge in case it's necessary.

Knowing when a bus evacuation is necessary

School districts usually have procedures for their drivers to follow in different emergencies, including evacuating the school bus. Several instances merit a bus evacuation:

  • Fire. If a fire starts on the bus, statistics show that smoke, hazardous gases and fire will spread throughout the bus in two minutes. Therefore, an evacuation is essential.
  • Fuel spill. If, following an accident, fuel is leaking from the school bus or another vehicle involved in the crash, a spark could ignite a fire. Evacuation is necessary.
  • Downed power lines. If power lines are draped across the bus and there is no fire hazard, it will be safest to remain on the bus until electricity has been shut off. However, if a fire ignites, the bus must be evacuated. Jumping out of the bus from the exit farthest from the point of contact with the power lines may be necessary.

Bus drivers should use their best judgement in the event of a bus emergency on a busy section of roadway or on a dangerous curve in the road, as it may be safest to evacuate. 

Establishing a system for identifying students on the bus

Accounting for students will help first responders in the event of an emergency. 

For drivers who have taken the time to learn the names of the students they transport, identifying them becomes second nature, and as long as the driver is capable, he or she can identify students for first responders. If students are not known - for whatever reason - backpacks can be checked so that student IDs can be found. 

It is strongly recommended that each school bus have a list of potential passengers on the bus that is easily accessible to emergency responders.

Bus drivers who know CPR, are familiar with bus evacuation procedures, and have established a system for identifying students on a bus can greatly help fire and medical professionals in the event of an emergency and - more importantly - prevent serious injury or death.

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Tags: safety, k-12, school bus

Avoiding school bus loading/unloading accidents

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Oct 01, 2013 @ 02:05 PM

shutterstock 4508386

One of the leading causes of school bus accidents is carelessness when loading and unloading the bus. What's more devastating is that oftentimes these accidents could have been prevented. If you're a Transportation Director or Assistant Superintendent, it's imperative that you educate your students on the correct way to load and unload the school bus. Here are a few tips that - if shared - could save a life. 


It's important to educate students that it's only safe to approach the school bus after it has come to a complete stop. The driver will open the door and motion for students to enter. They should wait for that signal, knowing that the bus driver will have taken all the necessary precautions - including making sure traffic is stopped.

Schools teach kids to line up in an orderly fashion away from the road and enter the bus one at a time. If more than one child tries to walk up the stairs at a time, it can cause tripping and/or a domino effect should one fall.

Students they should always use the handrail when walking up the steps so as to avoid slipping, especially during icy winters.


Yes, there’s even a safe way to exit a bus too. Once the bus has completely stopped, students can walk toward the door. It is discouraged to bop other kids in the head with bags as they walk by.

Students should be encouraged to use the handrail while walking down the stairs to exit. (It is there for a reason!) They should also make sure that straps, drawstrings, and clothing don’t get caught in the handrails or the door.

Should homework or a paper fly out from a backpack, students should be aware that they should never chase it under the bus. We know that homework is important, but the student’s life is MORE important. He/She can ask the school bus driver to get it, or they can wait until the bus goes on its way (but only retrieving the paper if it’s not in a street with traffic).

If kids have to cross the street after getting off the bus, they should always do so in front of the bus, never behind. That way, the bus driver can keep his/her eyes on them. Students should also walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus to ensure that the driver can always see them. If the road is clear, students should cross quickly. If not, they should return to the curb and defer to the bus driver’s prerogative as to when to cross.

Just like there’s more than one way to skin a cat (or so the saying goes), there’s more than one way to enter and exit a bus, but the safe way is the best way. So make sure your school system is teaching students the proper way and thus avoiding loading/unloading accidents.


Back to School Safety Tips for Parents

Tags: safety, k-12, school bus

Bullying On School Buses: Part 2

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 @ 02:03 PM

shutterstock 114356341So how should your bus drivers handle bullying? Read on for some great tips to help de-escalate these difficult situations.

Use de-escalation techniques to prevent conflict

Utilizing active listening techniques will help drivers, aides and school staff to convince a volatile student that he or she is being heard. Phrases like “I understand how you feel” and “Explain that to me so I can help you” will put the ball in the student’s court, and encourage him or her to think about the situation. Drivers could also offer compromises or options — such as explaining the consequences of the student’s actions under school policy so he or she can make a decision.

Pay attention to sentence structure

When speaking to an angry or frustrated student, it is vital to place the most important information that you want to convey to the student at the beginning of sentences.

When people are agitated, they’re not going to listen to the whole sentence, so whatever you say first is really the only thing that they are going to hear. You need to say what is most important to the other person, not necessarily what is most important to you, as the driver.

For example, if a student is getting out of his or her seat because he or she is in a hurry to get home, the school bus driver should say, “I will get you home soon if you sit down,” as opposed to, “Sit down and I will get you home soon.”

Paraphrasing students’ words can help

A form of verbal de-escalation called paraphrasing can also help you to start a calming conversation with a frustrated student. When the student says something to you, you should repeat it back to the student in your own words. This will demonstrate that you are actively listening to his or her concerns.

People who are agitated or possibly on the verge of becoming aggressive want other people to respond to them, just the same way that a person in a normal conversation would. In the same vein, you can also offer students a second chance by asking them to start explaining their problem from the beginning.

Avoid aggressive body language

When approaching a volatile student, it is crucial to remain non-threatening. If you’re dealing with someone who is potentially violent, and you’re flinging your arms around because you’re getting excited, that rapid movement subconsciously triggers something in a violent person, which can make the situation worse. Have proper body language and display a sense of calmness to the person that you’re dealing with.

Drivers and aides should avoid charging at a student. If you have a student in the middle or toward the back of the bus who is getting agitated, the driver doesn’t want to walk down the aisle to that student. It’s seen as charging; you don’t want to encroach upon their personal space.

Don’t be verbally confrontational

In a similar vein, school personnel should not resort to yelling to achieve order in a classroom or on a bus, as it can actually make the situation worse.

Yelling "Sit down and shut up" or "I am in charge and you are not!" is no more successful on a bus than it is in a classroom or school hallway. At the same time, however, when a student crosses a line into irrationality, sometimes speaking slowly and quietly won’t cut it.

When someone is acting irrationally, sometimes it takes a loud voice or noise or unexpected action to stop the chain of irrational thinking and get his or her attention: yell "Stop" or "Listen."

Know where to pull over the bus

If you have a serious incident on the bus, you need to find a safe place to pull the bus off to the side of the road, contact dispatch and let them know what is going on. If necessary, call 911.

Where you pull your bus over is important. Boardman suggests that drivers check along their routes for safe places to park the bus — such as grocery store or church parking lots or side roads — as part of their emergency planning. Pulling over so that you can attend to the incident is safer than trying to drive at the same time.

By educating and training your bus drivers on how to handle difficult situations, you are empowering them and making a stand against bullying - both of which are noble causes.

How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: safety, school bus

Bullying On School Buses: Part 1

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Sep 17, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

stop bullying signIt's likely no surprise that bullying is a big problem today in schools - and on buses. It's important that you, as a Transportation Director, train your drivers so that they know how to respond when/if an incident occurs. That's precisely why we put together this post with important information on how to train your drivers in handling these intense situations.

Crisis prevention experts, school safety professionals and violence intervention trainers all agree: Your campus and pupil transportation staff must be capable of actively listening to students, addressing harassment and bullying in a timely and consistent manner, and defusing tense situations  — and if violence does occur, they must be ready to protect themselves and their students. And it begins with knowing your students.

Know your students

The easiest way to recognize potentially dangerous or unwanted behavior is to know your students, according to Dr. Randy Boardman, executive director of research and development at the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI).

Drivers and teachers who address their students by name each day are more likely to recognize unusual behavior. They are also more likely to forge a relationship with a student that could lead him or her to ask for help rather than act out.

Recognize the signs

Knowing your students can help you to better identify changes in mood or manner that might signify a potential outburst or misbehavior. If a student who is upbeat and talkative suddenly becomes withdrawn or sullen, this could be a sign that something is wrong.

Students who are bullied, Boardman says, might begin to overtly challenge their aggressors or withdraw completely.

Look for non-verbal cues

Besides changes in mood or behavior, Brooks suggests that drivers and other school staff look for more overt indicators of potential violence — such as physical cues. Body language, such as clenching of the fists and repeated rubbing of the head or hair, can signify frustration.

Also, the removal of clothing like jackets, sweatshirts or glasses can be a signal. “The removing of the articles is a way that human beings tend to try to deescalate themselves naturally and bring themselves down to a calm state. So when they take off something, they’re trying to shed that emotion, trying to get rid of it,” Brooks says.

Look for verbal cues

A student who is angry or agitated to the point of violence might use forced or strained speech when addressing an authority figure. He or she also might refrain from using profanity before losing control — but then switch to inappropriate, provocative language as he or she becomes more flustered. Parroting or echoing what is said by an authority figure might be another indicator.

If bullying is an issue on your bus, tune in next week for Part 2 of our series on bullying that will detail how to handle the situation.


How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: safety, school bus

How to Clean a School Bus

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Sep 10, 2013 @ 02:25 PM

clean bus interiorAs a bus driver, you have a lot on your plate: transporting lots of children to and from school daily (in addition to keeping the peace while doing it). One of your other responsibilities is keeping your school bus clean. Just in case you're new to driving a school bus - or if you're wanting some tips to make the task easier- we compiled this blog post chalked full of ways to make your bus sparkle and shine.

In order to get the most accurate information, we went to our friends at XCel Clean, an Indianapolis-based professional cleaning company. Owner Dan Dezelan was gracious enough to offer the following tips:


  • Maintaining a clean school bus is obviously important. One of the keys to your success will be routine maintenance. Sweep out the bus at the end of your route every day. This will ensure that the dirt doesn't linger. (If once a day isn't feasible, shoot for once a week!)
  • Hose out the interior of your bus at least once a month. Don't forget to spray the roof and the windows, too!
  • The driver's area of a school bus tends to collect dirt (from those pesky dirt roads), so vacuum or wipe off your seat and dash.
  • If you have gum or other sticky debris on your seats, scrape it off with a razor blade. Wipe down the seats with a surface cleaner. Don't forget the sides and backs, too!
  • Wipe off all of your rear view mirrors (interior and exterior) with some Windex or other spray window cleaner. We recommend using paper towels, as rags tend to leave bits of fluff behind.
  • If your floors need some extra attention, mix some floor cleaner with water in a bucket. Mop it until it shines! 
  • Wash the outside of your bus once a month (or as needed). We recommend using car wash soap; dish soap just won't cut the dirt as well. It's not designed for this type of grime. You'll likely need a ladder, but make sure you pay attention to the top of the bus as well!
  • Scrub the wheel wells and tires with a brush with some soapy water. If you want, you can also use a tire treatment to revitalize the rubber.

With a little bit of elbow grease, your bus will be like new! Happy cleaning!

How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: school bus

Why school bus diesel exhaust is bad and what you can do about it

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Jul 02, 2013 @ 11:58 AM

shutterstock 57618559Approximately 600,000 buses transport 24 million students to and from school each day. Most of those vehicles still run on diesel fuels. While all new buses must meet EPA’s tighter emission standards, many older school buses continue to emit harmful diesel exhaust.

“So what’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that diesel exhaust has a negative impact on human health in general, and especially on children because they have a faster breathing rate than adults and their lungs are not yet fully developed.

Diesel exhaust is comprised of very fine particles of carbon and a mixture of toxic gases. Federal agencies have classified exhaust as a probable human carcinogen. And the truth is, that toxic gas isn’t just existing outside the school bus; it often dirties the air inside school buses.

“Surely not that much exhaust gets in, right?”

Wrong. A study done by the Coalition for Clean Air and the University of California at Berkeley found that levels of diesel exhaust inside a school bus can be four times HIGHER than those in passenger cars driving ahead of the bus.

“It’s just a little dirty air. Can it really cause that many problems?”

Yes. Diesel exhaust has serious health effects that have been extensively documented. Numerous studies have shown that diesel fumes cause cancer. And since children often ride buses to school every day for many years, their exposure adds up. Exhaust also aggravates diseases like emphysema and bronchitis and can worsen (or trigger) asthma attacks.

And that's not all diesel exhaust does. It's equally terrible for the environment, contributing to the production of ground-level ozone (smog) and acid rain, air toxins, and black carbon. These emissions can damage plants, animals, crops, and water. Additionally, it affects air quality, weather patterns, sea level, and agriculture. Overall, it's really bad for everyone and everything around.

"So, what are we to do?"

The EPA recommends a wide range of emission reduction strategies for diesel vehicles, including: installing a diesel retrofit device with verified technologies, maintain/repair/rebuild/repower engines, replace older vehicles and equipment, improve operational strategies, and use cleaner fuels including natural gas and propane.

“So, what if we can't afford all that?”

New school buses are obviously a big-ticket item. But there is help available. Because these diesel fuels are so harmful, the Environmental Protection Agency is working to update fleets to cleaner fuels.

In fact, that’s the exact reason they launched the National Clean Diesel Campaign. These technologies include emissions and idle control devices, aerodynamic equipment, engine and vehicle replacements, and alternative fuel options.

In January 2011, President Obama signed legislation re-authorizing grants to eligible entities for projects that reduce emissions from existing diesel engines. The bill authorizes up to $100 million annually from 2012-2016.

School buses in your fleet may be eligible for these grants. To read more about eligibility and uses of funding, click here.

Updating school buses may be costly, but in the end it is worth it to protect our children and our environment.

How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: school bus, fuel efficiency

How to become a school bus driver

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 @ 11:55 AM

shutterstock 85419637 1Do you love spending time on the road? Do you get excited about the idea of driving a vehicle bigger than a car? Do you enjoy being around kids? Could you benefit from some extra income? If you answered “Yes” to the above questions, you might be a great candidate to become a school bus driver.

While training guidelines vary state to state, some requirements remain constant, regardless. These policies dictate bus driver eligibility requirements, such as driving record and level of education. In the event that you are interested in this opportunity, read on for some general direction of how to become a school bus driver.

Complete high school

All applicants must show their high school diploma before being hired, so finish that degree!

Be at least 24 years old

In addition to age requirements, many districts also require that applicants have some form of experience in driving buses, big trucks or other large vehicles.

Complete a first aid course

Becoming first aid certified is imperative. First and foremost, bus drivers must ensure the safety of their students.

Hold a CDL

All districts require their us drivers to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This is a license for driving a bus that is obtained from the local Department of Motor Vehicles. You have to pass a written test in addition to a driving test in order to pass. Your school district might pay for your CDL, so check with them before taking the test.

Pass a written test

In addition to the DMV test, you have to pass a written test with the district where you’ll be driving buses. Some districts require an ability test as well.

Complete a criminal background check

All applicants must pass a background check before they can be hired. This includes obtaining a set of fingerprints at the local police station and completing and signing a release of information

Be good with kids

Working with children come with the territory when it comes to driving a school bus, so loving kids is a major perk. All school bus drivers must be able to monitor kids’ behavior and always be courteous to them. (After all, you are their advocate.) You also need to make sure that all riders follow the bus rules, so being stern is probably a plus.


Apply at your local school district’s Board of Education office. You will likely have to fill out an application and conduct an interview with the person responsible for bus drivers (or district superintendent).

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Your education does not stop once you are licensed and hired as a bus driver. Most states require bus drivers to complete ongoing training in order to renew your license.
  • Your personal driving record is just as important as your professional one when it’s your livelihood. Once a bus driver, these records are viewed as one and the same. When driving your personal vehicle, exhibit as much caution as when driving the bus.
  • Any instance of criminal offense, drug or alcohol-related incidents or reckless driving could result in your school bus license being revoked. Always exhibit professionalism in your personal life. 
Becoming a bus driver can be a rewarding career and well worth the effort to make it happen.

How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: k-12, school bus

You might need a new school bus if...

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 @ 10:05 AM

old school bus photoJeff Foxworthy is a comedian known for his “You might be a redneck if...” jokes. Perhaps you’ve heard some.

Today, we’re aptly adjusting his joke to, “You might need a new school bus bus if...”

We know that new buses are expensive and that they’re not always in the budget. (Some can cost up to $100,000, according to Yahoo Answers.) But you need to know when it’s time to request an update in your aging fleets.

Without further ado, “You might need a new bus if...”

It’s breaking down regularly enough to warrant having a teacher on board.
Breaking down is nothing to laugh at, we realize. If your bus is causing your students to be late to class on a regular basis, it’s costing them a portion of their education - and it’s likely causing parents to be late for work, too.

It’s old enough to vote.
The average life of a school bus is 12 years. While you can often get away with routine maintenance for a few more years, you don’t want to stretch out the mileage too long. The money you put into minor repairs could be going toward a brand new model.

It’s hotter than hades in the summer and colder than the North Pole in the winter.
Temperature controls are more than merely a comfort issue. If your bus doesn’t have air conditioning or heat, it becomes a health issue. You can cause kids to get hypothermia (being too cold) or hyperthermia (being too warm). 

If students have to balance themselves on the seats because there’s no padding.
While we’re all for having strong quad muscles, kids shouldn’t have to be uncomfortable on the seats. If there’s no padding left - or if the leather has worn through - perhaps you should consider an upgrade.

All joking aside, school bus safety is an important issue to consider. If your fleet is aging, it might just be time for an upgrade.


How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: school bus

Benefits of seat belts on school buses

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, May 21, 2013 @ 10:27 AM

shutterstock 114499762Seat belts on school buses has been a hotly-debated topic for decades. Everyone wants to weigh in - from kids to administrators, parents to bus drivers, bus manufacturers to the transportation industry.

Cost, safety, and “Would kids actually wear them?” all play major factors. According to, at least 6 states (California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana) require seat belts to be installed on their new buses. Obviously, these states find them worthwhile. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of outfitting school buses with seat belts.
Crash Protection
Advocates of belts on buses interpret available crash-test and case-study data as indicating that belts provide improved crash protection and are beneficial especially in side-impacts and roll-overs. They could also provide a reduction in injuries to out-of-position students that would be kept in their seats by the belts.

Less Distracted Drivers
It is speculated that seat belts implemented in buses would lead to improved behavior in passengers, thus less distractions for drivers. Keeping students in their seats also has the potential to lessen bullying which oftentimes occurs on the bus. With the help of seating charts, bus drivers can strategically place troublemakers away from their targets.

Reinforced Usage
Use of seat belts in school buses would reinforce seat belt usage across the board. Babies come home from the hospital being strapped into car seats and later grow up riding in cars in booster seats. They are used to being strapped in, so implementing them in buses would be an extension of this lifelong critical habit.

Regardless of your opinions on the issue, we can all agree that we want students to be safe - with or without seat belts.


How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: safety, k-12, school bus