It’s back to school and that means school buses will be back on the roads. With the safety of children at the top of parent’s minds, bus drivers are reminding kids and other drivers how to make this year as safe as possible.
Mel Gillus is a Dattco school bus driver in Windsor. Back to school means back to his daily routine. He is making sure his bus is in working order, checking the mirrors and checking everything off his list, to be sure his bus is safe. Before the start of school, drivers such as Mel practiced their routes to get ready for their favorite part of the job.
“My favorite thing about being a bus driver is the kids,” said Gillus.
After 21 years as a Connecticut State Trooper, Gillus said parents can be confident their kids are in good hands.
“I got the kids, don't worry about them, the kids are going to get there safe,” said Gillus.
The Department of Transportation said 330,000 children are transported to and from school in Connecticut on a bus every day. School bus drivers are here to teach kids about school bus safety and the emergency exits on the vehicle. However, there is still a lot parents can do before the first day of school.
Parents should help kids get to the bus stop early, tell them to keep their voices down and always stay seated while riding the bus.
“The most important thing is to stay seated when the bus is moving. That is the absolute most important thing,” said Gillus.
Safety before and after the bus ride is also crucial. Bus drivers said children should stay on the sidewalks and wait for the bus to come to a complete stop. Once the doors open, children should wait for the bus driver to wave them on and then double check that no traffic is coming before boarding the vehicle.
While kids need to do their part, other drivers need to help out too.
“I want the drivers to be aware the kids are going to be standing out there and that these buses will be making stops,” said Gillus.
He said drivers need to pay attention. When people see a school bus, they should know that a child could be on a sidewalk nearby. Drivers should always obey the red flashing lights and stop sign on a bus. If drivers pass the bus while it is picking up students, bus drivers will take down their license plate number and report it to the DMV.
Connecticut laws say that drivers are required to stop at least ten feet from the front or rear of a school bus when it is displaying its flashing red lights. A first offense will cost a driver a $450 fine. Any subsequent offenses will cost drivers a fine of $500 to $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail, or both.
Often times, bus drivers say it is the traffic around their vehicle that concerns them the most.
“I have seen a lot of bad crashes and I know what can happen when people are not paying attention to what is going on, on the road,” said Gillus. “But it always comes back to safety, safety, safety.”
At the end of the day, these buses are carrying our most precious cargo and safety should be something we all strive for.