Local News

Wake school bus drivers train to avoid drop-off mishaps

Posted August 13, 2009 6:36 a.m. EDT
Updated August 13, 2009 7:56 a.m. EDT

— In less than two weeks, 900 school buses will crisscross Wake County. There's little tolerance for error, even when buses are making 25,000 stops a day.

Last year, several Wake County parents complained that their children were dropped off at the wrong bus stop. Wake County Public Schools officials said they have protocols in place to help keep it from happening again.

A big yellow bus has been Nytoisha Bennett's mobile office for the past 16 years, and another school year is right around the corner for the veteran bus driver.

“(I have a) new group of kids, new school, new bus,” she said.

Bennett is one of 886 bus drivers for Wake County schools. Every other year they attend a defensive driving workshop. Every year their routes are re-configured to accommodate new students. So before school starts, drivers take their bus for a road test.

“They’ll spend a half day going out and run their route to make certain they hit every stop,” said Wake schools' Senior Transportation Director Bob Snidemiller.

That's the goal, but it hasn't always happened. Last year, a Wake bus driver dropped off a first-grader at the wrong bus stop. There were two other similar incidents with year-round students.

“The best thing we can do is make certain bus drivers understand the route,” Snidemiller said.

All Wake County kindergartners and first-graders will get an ID tag on the first day. It has the student's name, school, phone number and bus stop location.

“For your kindergartners and first-graders, you have to read their tags and make sure what you have on the tag matches with information given on your route description,” Bennett said.

At the end of a route, when the driver turns off the bus, an alarm sounds. To turn off the alarm, bus drivers have to press a button in the back of the bus, which forces them to walk the aisle and make sure no child is left behind.

“We can’t rush, because we have to be safe. So we get there as best we can and close to schedules as best we can,” Bennett said.

Transportation officials said they have added a phone line in their office to be better respond to any calls or complaints they might receive.