By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Wheels on buses will go round and round, all the way through National School Bus Safety Week. But employees of a local transportation company hope this week will be much more than a reminder of that old tune.
Adair Inc. — which has provided bus service to Clovis Schools for more than three decades — is addressing one cardinal safety rule company officials say is oft-ignored in Clovis: Drivers must stop when school bus stop signs are extended, yet many don’t, according to Adair employee Melissa Ward.
According to Ward, each school bus is equipped with a stop sign, which is extended when the bus door opens. By law, cars on two-lane roads must stop while the sign is extended, she said.
Bus drivers in Clovis encounter drivers who fail to heed the law daily, Ward said.
“Thankfully, we’ve had no accidents yet,” said Ward, who acts as a substitute driver when needed, but mostly works in the Adair office.
“Our drivers are very good about watching for cars that aren’t going to stop,” Ward said. “And we use the horn a lot.”
According to the School Bus Information Council, students who ride buses are far safer than students who do not.
Each year roughly 800 students are killed on the commute to school, but the vast majority of those fatalities afflict those who do not ride school buses. Of about 800 fatalities, about 20 were school-bus related, according to the Information Council.
Ward applauds her drivers for their vigilance. “We are pretty good at nipping our problems in the bud,” she said.
Adair drivers are required to undergo extensive training to keep students safe, she said.
Drivers must obtain CPR and first aid certification and log in 16 hours of training per year, Ward said. They learn how to be defensive drivers — uber-vigilant of road conditions and erratic drivers who share the road. And they learn how to conquer obstacles such as blind spots and nasty weather, she said.
Recently, school bus drivers have also been recruited as important aids in the fight against terrorism, she said.
During a training session in August, Adair drivers were versed on how they could bolster homeland security.
“We are in the same neighborhoods five days a week,” said Ward.
“We can look for vehicles that aren’t normally in the neighborhood, adults acting differently than they normally would,” she said.
Adair has a host of activities planned for the rest of Bus Safety Week, which began Sunday and lasts through Saturday.
School bus inspections began Monday and should last all week, Ward said.
“We go around and check to make sure every nut and bolt is in place,” Ward said.
“We make sure interiors are clean and everything is in good, working order.”
A local radio personality also has plans to ride along on a bus to celebrate the safety week, Ward said.