School Buses Study Material for Supplemental School Bus Written Test

School Buses Study Material for Supplemental School bus Written Test

This section covers

  • Danger Zones and Use of Mirrors
  • Loading and Unloading
  • Emergency Exit and Evacuation
  • Railroad-highway Grade Crossings

Drivers of school buses must have a commercial driver's license with passenger and school bus endorsements. To get the school bus endorsement, you must pass a knowledge test. You must also pass a skills test required for the class of school bus you drive or intend to drive.

This section does NOT provide information on all the state requirements needed before you drive a school bus with pupils aboard.

10.1 - Danger Zones and Use of Mirrors
10.1.1 - Danger Zones

The danger zone is the area anywhere outside of the bus where children are in the most danger of being hit, either by another vehicle or their own bus.
Figure 10.1 illustrates these areas.

10.1.2 - Correct Mirror Adjustment

Proper adjustment and use of all mirrors is vital to the safe operation of the school bus in order to observe the danger zone around the bus and look for students, traffic, and other objects in this area. All mirrors should be checked for proper adjustment before operating the vehicle.

10.1.3 - Outside Left and Right Flat Mirrors

These mirrors are mounted on the left and right sides of the vehicle. They are used to monitor traffic and clearances to the side of the bus. There is a blind spot below and in front of each mirror and directly behind the back bumper.

Ensure that the mirrors are properly adjusted so you can see:

  • 200 feet to the rear.
  • Along the side of the bus.
  • The rear tires touching the ground.
10.1.4 - Outside Left and Right Side Convex Mirrors

Convex mirrors are located near the flat mirrors and are used to monitor the left and right sides at a wide angle. These mirrors present an image that does not accurately reflect the size and distance from the bus.

Ensure the mirrors are properly adjusted so you can see:

  • The entire side of the bus up to the mirror mounts.
  • Front of the rear tires touching the ground.
  • At least one traffic lane on either side of the bus.
10.1.5 - Outside Cross View Mirror

These mirrors are mounted on one or both front corners of the bus. They are used to see the "danger zone" directly in front of the bus that is not visible by direct vision, and to view the "danger zone" to the side including the service door and the front wheel area. These mirrors present an image that does not accurately reflect the size and distance from the bus.

Ensure the mirrors are properly adjusted so you can see:

  • The entire area in front of the bus from the front bumper at ground level to a point where direct vision is possible. Direct vision and mirror view vision should overlap.
  • The front tire(s) touching the ground.
  • The area from the front of the bus to the service door.
  • These mirrors, along with the convex and flat mirrors, should be viewed in a logical sequence to ensure a child or object is not in any of the danger zones.
10.1.6 - Overhead Interior Rearview Mirror

This mirror is mounted directly above the windshield on the driver's side area of the bus. This mirror is used to monitor passenger activity in the bus.

Ensure the mirror is properly adjusted so you can see:

  • The top of the rear window in the top of the mirror.
  • All of the seating positions.
10.2 - Loading and Unloading

More students are killed while getting on or off a school bus each year than are killed as passengers inside a school bus. As a result, knowing what to do before, during, and after loading or unloading students is critical.

10.2.1 - Approaching the Stop

The school district superintendent has the responsibility to establish school bus stops. All stops shall be approved by the school district prior to making the stop.

You must use extreme caution when approaching a school bus stop. It is critical that you understand and follow all laws and regulations regarding loading and unloading. This will involve the proper use of mirrors, amber and red flashing light systems, stop arm, hand held stop sign, and student escort procedures.

When approaching the stop, you should:

  • Approach cautiously at a slow rate of speed.
  • Look for pedestrians, traffic, or other objects before, during, and after coming to a stop.
  • Continuously check all mirrors.
  • If the bus is so equipped, activate alternating flashing amber lights 200 feet before the school bus stop. The 4-way hazard lights shall not be used in addition to or in place of the alternating flashing amber lights.
  • Continuously check mirrors to monitor the danger zones for students, traffic, and other objects.
  • Move as far to the right as possible.
  • Stop the bus at least 10 feet before reaching the students. This forces the students to walk to the bus so you have a better view of their movements.
  • Place the transmission in neutral and set the park brake.
  • Deactivate the amber lights and activate the flashing red lights.
10.2.2 - Loading Procedures
  • Perform a safe stop as described in subsection 10.2.1
  • Students should wait in a designated location for the school bus as it approaches.
  • Students board the bus only when signaled by the driver.
  • Monitor all mirrors continuously.
  • Be sure all students have boarded before moving the bus.
  • Students should board the bus in single file and use the handrail.
  • Wait until all students are seated before moving the bus.
  • If you cannot account for a student outside, secure the bus take the key, and check around and under the bus.

When all students are accounted for, prepare to leave by:

  • Closing the door.
  • Cancel the flashing red lights.
  • Engage the transmission.
  • Release the park brake.
  • Turn on the left turn signal.
  • Check all mirrors.
  • When it is safe, move the bus to enter the traffic flow and continue on the route.
10.2.3 - Unloading Procedures
  • Perform a safe stop at designated unloading areas as described in subsection 10.2.1.
  • Students are to remain seated until ready to exit.
  • Check all mirrors.
  • Perform driver escort if students pre-kindergarten through eighth grade must cross the road.
  • Have students move at least 10 feet away from the bus after exiting.
  • Check all mirrors again. Make sure no students are around or returning to the bus.
  • If you cannot account for a student outside the bus, secure the bus, and check around and under the bus.

When all students are accounted for, prepare to leave by:

  • Closing the door.
  • Cancel the flashing red lights.
  • Engaging the transmission.
  • Releasing the park brake.
  • Turn on the left turn signal.
  • Check all mirrors again.
  • When it is safe, move the bus into the traffic flow and continue the route.
10.3 - Emergency Exit and Evacuation

An emergency situation can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. It could be a crash, a stalled school bus on a railroad-highway crossing or in a high speed intersection, a fire in the engine compartment, a medical emergency involving a student on the bus etc. Knowing what to do before during and after an evacuation can mean the difference between life and death.

10.3.1 - Planning for Emergencies

The first and most important consideration is for you to recognize the hazard. If time permits, the school bus driver should contact their dispatcher to explain the situation before making a decision to evacuate the school bus.

As a general rule, student safety and control is best maintained by keeping students on the bus during an emergency and /or impending crisis situation, if by so doing it does not expose students to risk or injury. Remember the decision to evacuate the bus must be timely and necessary.

During darkness, if the bus is on or within 10 feet of the main traveled portion of the roadway the emergency reflectors should be properly placed. On a divided roadway (one-way traffic), one reflector is placed 10 feet to the rear, one placed 100 feet to the rear and one placed 200 feet to the rear of the bus.

10.4 - Railroad-highway Crossings

It is important for you to understand and obey laws and regulations governing how school buses must operate at railroad-highway crossings. In general, school buses must stop at all crossings and ensure it is safe before proceeding across the tracks.

A school bus is one of the safest vehicles on the highway. However a school bus does not have the slightest edge when involved in a crash with a train. Because of the size and weight it cannot stop quickly. An emergency escape route does not exist for a train. Only you can prevent school bus/train crashes by following proper procedures at every crossing.

Approaching the crossing:

  • Slow down, downshift if appropriate, and test brakes.
  • Activate 4-way hazard lights on approach to the crossing.
  • Activate turn signal.
  • Check all mirrors
  • Scan the area around you and check traffic behind.
  • Move to the appropriate edge of the roadway. Choose an escape route in the event of a brake failure or problems behind you.

At the crossing:

  • Stop no closer than 15 feet and no farther than 50 feet from the nearest rail, where you have the best view of the tracks.
  • Place the transmission in neutral with service brake or park brake applied.
  • Turn off all radios and noisy equipment, have students remain quiet.
  • Open the service door and drivers window. Look and listen for an approaching train.

Crossing the tracks:

  • Close service door.
  • Check the crossing signals again before proceeding.
  • Ensure there is adequate space on the other side of the tracks to safely accommodate the bus before starting to cross.
  • Activate turn signal.
  • Cross the tracks in a low gear. Do not change gears while crossing.
  • If the gate comes down after you have started across, drive through even if it means you will break the gate.

Warning signs and devices:

Many active railroad-highway crossings have gates with flashing red lights and bells. Remain stopped when the lights are flashing and before the gate lowers across the road lane. Remain stopped until the gates go up and the lights have stopped flashing. Proceed when safe. If the gate stays down after the train has passed, do not drive around the gate. Call for assistance from a traffic officer or correction by the railroad.