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Schoolbus Safety

Recently we’ve seen several school bus crashes across our region. But what are children taught to do in such situations?

Both the State College Area School District transportation director and PennDOT’s safety press officer tell me school buses are one of the safest vehicles on the road. Nonetheless, they say it’s still imperative to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

One week. Multiple school bus crashes.

Cambria County on Tuesday saw a bus roll over amid strong winter weather, with county 911 officials saying the crash sent one student and an adult to the hospital.

Wednesday last week, a bus carrying students in Centre County hit a tree, resulting in the driver and three students hospitalized. Bellefonte Area School District said the other children managed to free themselves from that wreckage.

Ken Bean, the fiscal affairs director and head of transportation at the school district, told us the older elementary students kept everyone else calm and led them out the back of the bus in an orderly fashion because the driver was trapped.

Both PennDOT’s Timothy Nebgen and the SCASD transportation director, Van Swauger, say they train students about emergency exits, as well as first aid.

“They get off the bus as quickly as possible if in the event of an emergency,”

“If the front of the bus, like the front door happens to be obscured or blocked then we go over the evacuation procedure with them, that they go to the back of the bus, that they sit down on their bottom, and they slide out.”

Though, Nebgen noted that the only person who can decide that there’s an emergency is the driver. But what should students do if the driver is unable to make that decision?

“The drivers, typically, we are on a two-way radio, so they’ll radio us here at the main garage and they’ll let us know that they were in an accident if they’re able to Otherwise, students are encouraged to use their cell phone and call 911 as quickly as possible.”

“Assess the situation, If you’re not gonna get off the bus because of being in the middle of the road or something like that, maybe you don’t need to get off it.”

Nebgen said one of the big things PennDOT stresses is the concept of compartmentalization, noting that many parents are concerned about school buses not having seat belts for the children.

“School buses are built like an egg carton, As long as the students are sitting with their bottoms against the seat and their backs against the back of a seat, if they are unfortunately involved in a crash, they’re going to end up being safe more often than not.”

“So, the kids are very safe in school buses, even though we’ve seen crashes lately, I mean, most fatalities happen when they’re outside of the school bus.”

With us getting a taste of winter Tuesday, Swauger also told us his drivers this time of year will prioritize driving slowly, to ensure safety.

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