In Ontario, on any given day, more than 800,000 children climb aboard almost 18,000 school buses. The buses deliver them safely to school and bring them home again. Perhaps because it is such a common routine, kinds and much of the general public are never aware of the care and activity behind the scenes.
* Background Paper on School Bus Occupant Protection in Canada,
Transport Canada, Jan. 1990.
Personality aside, the legal requirements for becoming a licensed school bus driver are very demanding. Drivers must be at least 21 years of age, have knowledge of bus equipment maintenance and passenger safety and control as well. Between 20 and 40 hours of specialized training are followed by written exams and a road test in the bus. Driving and criminal records are reviewed and regular medical and vision examinations are required.
Every driver must complete certified driver improvement courses, as well as know traffic laws and safety procedures inside out. Periodic re-examinations keep the school bus driver sharp and safety-wise.
Besides being highly noticeable, a school bus is exceptionally well-built. Construction and equipment standards for school buses are controlled by more government regulations than any other vehicle on public roadways. There are specifications for the roof, tires, lights, mirrors, seats, safety equipment ... even the number and size of bandages in the first-aid kit! In addition to regular maintenance, a licensed mechanic inspects every school bus thoroughly twice a year. To be sure that the inspection program is effective, Ontario Ministry of Transportation mechanics make random inspections of school buses throughout the province.
Working together, these professionals decide which children must be bused to school and where and when to pick them up. They set standards for behavior on the bus and handle discipline problems. They also research, design and enforce the many laws and regulations that govern school busing.
Finding new and better ways to protect little passengers is a constant challenge, but it is one that the school bus industry tackles with collective pleasure and pride.
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