Fernanda Eisler

Fernanda Eisler urges other motorists to give buses some space on the roads.

Bus driver's precious cargo includes her own children

School bus driver Fernanda Eisler started driving bus on the streets of Calgary.

For the past year and a half, she’s been enjoying more idyllic driving conditions in Vulcan County, transporting students from the area northwest of Vulcan and delivering them safely to Vulcan’s elementary and high school.

While the traffic can’t compare to what she faced in Cowtown, she says her rural route has its tense moments, as drivers pass her, disregarding her flashing red lights and stop arm.

“Some drivers seem not too keen on sharing the road with bus drivers,” she says. “I think it’s mostly impatience.”

She shakes her head remembering the day she was honked at and passed on the right by a vehicle as she signaled and slowed to make a left turn off Highway 23. It’s not a wide highway, and it left her bus in a tight squeeze.

What drivers may not realize when they squeeze along the right side of the bus is that a school bus is considerably longer than a typical passenger vehicle. The end of the bus swings wide as the bus is turning.

 “They could clip my bumper and push me into oncoming traffic and we could have a collision,” she says.

Buses also take longer to speed up and slow down, and the speed limit for them on the highway is 90 km/h.

Three times last year alone, she had motorists pass her while she was stopped for students, a no-no that could earn a driver a $402 fine and six demerit points. In the worst instance, three separate vehicles cruised by her while she was stopped. Such behaviour puts students at risk as they board or unload.

While Palliser’s bus drivers routinely talk about caring for the students on their bus as if they were their own kids, the sentiment is especially true for Eisler’s precious cargo.

“I literally have my two children on the bus with me,” she says.

Her voice chokes with emotion at the thought of what could go wrong if drivers don’t take care and caution around the school bus.

“When you get in a really close situation, it shakes you up quite a bit,” Eisler says. “I’m carrying all their lives in my bus. How much time do you save by risking the lives of my kids on the bus? It probably takes less than one full minute for me to stop and get kids off my bus. What are they saving? One full minute?”