I commend the Red Deer Advocate for printing the diagram “Know your bus danger zone!” in the Kid Scoop column on the back page of the Sept. 1 Red Deer LIFE.
The diagram clearly shows that the safe way to disembark from a school bus is to walk 10 feet straight out from the bus and wait there until the bus pulls away.
From Internet searches, I have concluded that this is widely accepted as a standard procedure.
Unfortunately, my observation has been that this procedure is not rigorously followed in Red Deer. Many buses begin moving when children are in the 10-foot danger zone, and the drivers rely on mirrors to check that no children are near the right rear wheel.
I urge all parents to become familiar with how the buses carrying their children follow good safety practices, and to insist on improvements if necessary. School bus safety is important enough to be an election issue.
During the 2011-12 school year, I exchanged a few emails with the Red Deer Public School Board when I observed unsafe unloading beside our yard at the corner of Law Close and LaGrange Crescent. On two occasions, I observed one or more children only one foot away from the right rear wheel when the bus pulled away!
Up to a dozen kindergarten to Grade 6 children regularly got off the bus at this stop, making it difficult for the driver to verify that all were safe unless he/she had seen them walk to the safe zone and wait there.
The initial reply from the board pointed out the excellent safety record of Prairie Bus Lines and the route driver. Safety records are, of course, meaningless if the appropriate equipment is not used and sound procedures are not followed.
As the train disaster at Lac-Megantic sadly showed, accidents can be waiting to happen.
During the summer of 2012, the board moved the bus stop away from my critical eyes to a location beside a park closer to Lancaster Drive. I watched unloading at this location a few times during the 2012-13 school year, and observed that the children were more orderly when they got off the bus.
However, most children were no more than three feet away from the bus when it began moving, and thus were in what the diagram calls a danger zone.
Clearly, there is a need for improved school bus safety in Red Deer.