Palliser delivers bus safety message

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Staff at Dorothy Dalgliesh School in Picture Butte helps students with a mock evacuation exercise as part of Palliser’s “Think of Us on the Bus” safety campaign.

PICTURE BUTTE – There was no pop quiz at the end of this lesson, but the contents were no less valuable all the same.

On this day Dave Shaw was delivering Palliser Regional Schools’ “Think of Us on the Bus” safety campaign to students at Dorothy Dalgliesh School. Each fall the Transportation Services Supervisor provides students at every elementary school tips that could save their lives.

“The goal of the campaign is to make sure we’re giving our students all the information they need to be safe around our buses – safe getting on them, safe getting off them,” said Shaw. “And then some general rule knowledge for when they’re on the bus.”

Each day Palliser bus drivers cover a total of some 10,000 kilometres, or more than a million kilometres every year, with about 1,800 students taken to and from school on a daily basis.

“You may be a bus rider every day or you may just be going on one or two field trips over the course of the year, but you all need to understand what is expected of you while you are on the bus and how you can help us make sure the experience is a safe and enjoyable one,” he said.

In addition to Shaw’s presentation, students were taken outside to practise a mock bus evacuation. Depending on the scenario, students may need to make an emergency exit via the front, rear or both bus doors.  They’re also taught where to gather safely after leaving the bus.

The instruction provided isn’t just to make the bus driver’s life easier. Having students seated and orderly is a must, for example, when buses have to stop at uncontrolled railway crossings – a frequent occurrence within Palliser’s boundaries.

“When the door opens and the window opens, that’s when students need to be at their quietest so the driver can listen to hear if anything is coming,” explained Shaw.

Students can be as safety conscious as possible but there is a second element to the equation –  those who share the road with school buses.

Just a block away from Dorothy Dalgliesh, changes were made this year to the bus drop-off procedures at St. Catherine’s School. Palliser picks up 100 students from the surrounding area and delivers them each morning to the Holy Spirit Catholic school through a long-standing, co-operative agreement.

Previously all nine Palliser buses coming into Picture Butte would stop there over a span of up to 20 minutes at times, whether they had two or 20 students for St. Catherine’s aboard.

Although bus drivers engage the flashing red lights and stop arm before they let students exit, impatient or inattentive drivers were still passing by instead of stopping. Add in the number of students being dropped off by parents across the street and the area in front of St. Catherine’s could be “chaos” at times, he said.

“We don’t want to tie up traffic any more than anyone else, so we looked at ways to get around that and make the process smoother,” Shaw said. “Nine different buses pulling up for 30 seconds at a time can cause some grief, especially if there are several in a row.”

Palliser began this school year by having all the buses meet at Picture Butte High School, with the St. Catherine’s students transferred onto just two buses for the short ride over. That means traffic is tied up for a matter of minutes in total, and school staff find supervision easier to manage as well.

Public education and environmental changes, where possible, are the preferable options when student safety is put at risk.

Enforcement is necessary for those who still don’t pay heed to the rules of the road. This year has already seen five “fly-bys” across the division. Thanks to on-board video cameras, the chances are good that motorists illegally passing a school bus with stop arm extended and red lights flashing will receive a $544 traffic ticket in the mail.

Shaw doesn’t want to believe those motorists are so uncaring they would purposefully put the school bus, driver and passengers at risk.

“The bulk of fly-bys are not people passing from behind, they are the people coming upon the stopped bus in the other direction,” he said. “That, to me, just means inattention to what they are doing. The car is on auto pilot and so are they.”

For more information about bus safety, please visit