Hot weather is coming, and with it we will hear more stories about kids left behind on busses and vans. It’s always a frightening event, and sometimes fatal. The greatest danger comes from sleeping or otherwise quiet children that the driver overlooks before locking up the bus. Now is a good time to review your policies to prevent accidents, and to reinforce them with your staff. Some ideas that you may want to consider include:
Bus Alarms start when the bus engine stops, and drivers have to walk to the back of the bus to turn them off. If your budget can stretch this far, alarms might be a good option to ensure that your drivers walk to the back of the bus. One problem I have seen is that, because the alarms are annoying, drivers sometimes turn them off before letting children off the bus. That practice misses the point of checking what appears to be an empty bus, so spot check your staff to be sure they aren’t unintentionally sabotaging the alarm.
Checklists are a low-tech procedure that many of my clients use. Bus drivers visually identify each child as they come on the bus and check off their name. Then, they repeat the procedure as the children leave the bus. This works well, as long as drivers don’t get distracted or start checking boxes automatically. Again, spot checks by administration can be essential here.
Leaving an Essential Item at the Back is a technique that many experts recommend for parents who have kids in the back seat. I’ve seen some organizations adapt this by putting something on the back of the bus before the bus run, and then requiring the bus driver to bring it in with them when they drop off the checklists. It seems to have worked well for them although they do have to remember to get it onto the bus before the bus run.
Ensuring a Second Look by an administrator or someone in addition to the bus diver also works well. My clients who use this procedure require someone other than the bus driver to check the bus and then lock it up. Not all organization have the manpower or ability to double up on inspections, but it is one relatively low-cost option.
Whatever procedure you use, the point is to be sure that staff proactively check the bus or van before leaving it. Youth-serving organizations always have a lot of things to think about and a lot of tasks to juggle. Ensuring that children don’t get left behind in a van or bus needs to be at the top of the list of safety checks.