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October 17, 2005

Jennifer Fennell
(850) 245-0413

Florida Department of Education Celebrates National School Bus Safety Week

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Education (DOE) will celebrate National School Bus Safety Week from October 16 through 22. As part of this celebration, the DOE will hold an event Wednesday, October 19, 11:00 a.m. at the Turlington Building in Tallahassee to honor several of Florida's dedicated school bus drivers and technicians with state and national awards. The event will also include an exhibit highlighting the safety features of school buses. This year's theme is "Flashing Red Means Stop Ahead," reminding motorists to stop for school buses.

The transportation professionals to be honored include the two Blue Bird National Award winners, the first place team winners of this year's National Special Needs Road-e-o, the Sure-Lok Special Needs Transportation National Award winner, the first through third place winners of the State Safety Skills Competition for school bus operators and bus technicians and the Florida Missing Children's Day School Bus Operator of the Year.

"It is important to make steady improvements to our bus system and we are proud of the professionals who are dedicated to ensuring the safety of our students," said Commissioner Winn. "High standards are not only set for our schools but for all elements that make up our educational system."

The yellow bus has been providing the safest mode of transportation for students for many years. Across the nation, 450,000 buses serve 24 million elementary and secondary school students. In the state of Florida, school buses transported more than one million students daily and traveled more than 300 million miles during the 2003-04 school year. School buses provide a level of safety over eight times greater per vehicle mile than passenger cars.

School buses must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as well as Florida School Bus Specifications prescribed by the State Board of Education. There have been many bus safety improvements in the last several years including: fire-retardant seating, additional emergency exits, reflective materials on the exterior of the buses, improved lighting systems, antilock braking systems, and many others.

Recent modifications to buses include improved safety features and increased comfort for bus drivers. High back air suspension seats, improved remotely adjustable mirror systems, tilting and telescoping steering wheels, reduced pedal effort; air operated entrance doors, improved diesel noise reduction and heat insulation are among many upgrades. Over 90 percent of new buses are now ordered with air condition as optional equipment.

Improvements have also been made to ensure safe school bus drivers. They are now required to submit pre-employment and periodic criminal background checks, as well as pre-employment and random drug and alcohol tests. In addition, they hold Commercial Driver Licenses with a special School Bus Endorsement.

The United States and Canada are the only two major countries in the world that provide purpose-built buses meeting special safety standards and requirements and have specially trained drivers for transportation of public school students.

The state's mission is to provide leadership, training and assistance to school districts in transporting students safely throughout Florida. The state continues to make improvements from bus equipment specifications to sponsorship of several annual meetings providing safety workshops for local transportation personnel at all levels.