Palliser offers bus safety course to a new audience

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Dave Shaw, Palliser’s Transportation Services Supervisor, with a copy of the STAA Bus Safety Course lesson plan.

Whether you are a passenger, driver, or one of the many motorists sharing the road, school bus safety is everyone’s business. Palliser Regional Schools is hoping to extend that message to a new audience this year through a new lesson plan available to students.

The Student Transport Association of Alberta (STAA) has put together a bus safety course for Grade 12 students that can fit into Career and Life Management (CALM) module in Palliser schools. The idea is to provide beginning drivers with invaluable information that isn’t readily available elsewhere.

“The new driver is going to be out there for a long time and the rules around school buses aren’t going to change,” says Dave Shaw, Palliser’s Transportation Services Supervisor. “This way you get to them before they get bad habits.”

It is further hoped those students will go home after school, talk about what they’ve learned and further share that information with their parents and the rest of the family.

Palliser already delivers instruction to elementary school students including information on how to safely board, unload and evacuate a school bus, and opportunities to practise the same. Bus drivers also take part in those exercises and are kept up to date with safety requirements, says Shaw, who is also a director with the STAA.

Palliser reminds the general driving population of the rules of the road each fall through its “Think of Us on the Bus” safety campaign. Yet left out of that mix, until now, were those new drivers.

Shaw says until recently, what drivers should do when approaching a school bus wasn’t necessarily covered in online exams for a learner’s permit. There was only a 50 per cent chance the subject would come up on the rotating list of tests.

“We approached the government and said ‘you need to make sure there are bus questions’ and now those tests are guaranteed to have at least one or two questions,” he says of the STAA. “Which is good, and way better than it was.”

To further target those young drivers the STAA first developed a video of about 40 minutes, which covers the many relevant scenarios involving school buses and actual footage of drivers breaking the law and putting those young passengers at risk. Efforts were made to ensure it featured the appropriate language and tone for the intended audience.

“They are old enough to be able to handle the video, which can prove pretty frightening when you watch some of the videos and go, ‘oh my goodness, we’re lucky the student didn’t walk towards the bus or walk off the bus right then,’ ” Shaw says.

The next step was to produce a step-by-step work plan that any teacher can take into class. The idea is to show the video one class and then have the students complete the work plan, including test questions, the following day.

Not only is it “plug and play” ready, he notes it is free as the video and course material were made possible through a $15,000 grant from the Alberta Traffic Safety Fund.

Shaw says principals across Palliser Regional Schools will be offered the course materials this year and hopes they will make it available to their teachers as part of the CALM module. Given the significant rural nature of the division, he says many students are familiar with riding a school bus and may have witnessed vehicles passing them illegally.

“It’s very important that they understand that when they are the ones driving the car, people make mistakes,” says Shaw. “We just want to make sure we minimize those, and that way we can minimize the chances of something catastrophic happening.”

To view the video component of the STAA bus safety course, CLICK HERE.

Palliser Regional Schools’ annual “Think of Us on the Bus” campaign brings attention to the need for other drivers sharing the road to keep in mind the valuable cargo aboard the school bus they are approaching. The multi-prong awareness campaign – which is promoted through media, social media and the school division’s website –is sponsored this year by the Coaldale Community Wellness Association.