When the Mexico Public Schools go back in session Aug. 15, there will be approximately 1,200 children transported on buses each day. The 18 daily bus routes involve an average of 20-25 stops each.
"Most accidents occur during the loading and unloading of buses," Curt Jackson, Transportation Director, said. "Our number one priority is the safe transportation of children."
The Mexico buses travel approximately 220,000 miles per school year, which includes activity trips such as athletics.
To make sure all children and parents understand the basics of bus safety, Jackson is offering several information opportunities.
Information will be available at the school registration, and all children grades K-8 will have a class on bus safety during the first week of school.
"We particularly want parents and children to be aware of the 'danger zone,' which is the 10 feet area in front of, in back of and on each side of the bus," Jackson said. "For children, we tell them to mark this area by staying five giant steps away from the bus unless the door is open for loading."
In the bus safety classes, students will be taught the bus expectations of being respectful, responsible and safe.
These include: use appropriate language and actions, listen and follow directions the first time, keep hands, feet and belongings to yourself, be on time, go directly to an open or assigned seat, gather all belongings before your stop (do not come back to the bus for anything), wait at least 10 feet from the bus, wait until the bus has come to a complete stop, carry your book bag in front of you, keep the aisle clear, exit the bus in a timely and safe manner, and after exiting, move at least 10 feet away from the bus so you can be seen by the driver.
Jackson emphasized that the number of drivers ignoring bus stop signs has increased nationwide. "In New York last year there were 30,000 violations a day," he said. "States surrounding Missouri have raised the fine to $500-600 an offense in an effort to curb drivers who violate the law."
There are 27 drivers in the Mexico schools. The drivers must pass an annual physical, obtain a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), and undergo eight hours of training. They also must earn a Passenger, Student and Air brakes (PSA) endorsement, which is a Missouri Department of Transportation requirement.
The Mexico drivers also have monthly training classes, on topics such as railroad safety and distracted driving prevention.
"I don't think the general public understands what our drivers do," Jackson said. "They go above and beyond for the safety of children. We have a fantastic group of drivers."
Applications for driver positions are available online at mexicoschools.net. "We are always looking for good drivers," Jackson said. "We do all the training necessary here at the school district."