Sally Sage takes her job very seriously.
The Seymour Community School bus driver stood with two other drivers outside Seymour Emerson Elementary School on Thursday morning waiting for the students to come out, two classes at a time, and practice the annual school bus safety drill.
“We’re the first thing they see in the morning and at the end of the day,” Sage said “You have to love kids in this job.”
After a group of students boarded the bus, she followed them on and spoke to them before they practiced the drill, explaining safety rules, how to ride the bus properly and several of the reasons they may need to evacuate the bus.
Sage followed that talk by explaining how to evacuate the bus properly and the different exits available in the event of an emergency.
She said that idea is to convey the seriousness of an emergency situation without scaring the students.
Sage isn’t the only one that takes her job seriously though, as it is a trait shared by all Seymour Community Schools bus, Tim Fosbrink said.
“The drivers, and Seymour schools take transportation very seriously. We want the students to do the same,” said the corporation’s transportation director.
“They need to know how to get off the bus without panicking if something happens,” said Lou Ann Hoevener, a bus driver with the school.
The students then were allowed to open the back door and leave the bus from the back, something most of the 4,300 students transported daily by the school will never have to do even in an emergency, Fosbrink said.
Much of the day-to-day information such as how to correctly approach a bus so the driver can see, and how to fasten seat belts, the students need to be refreshed each year.
“We do these drills annually to keep it fresh in both the drivers mind that anything can happen, and remind the students how to be safe on the bus and in worst-case scenario, how to exit the bus safely,” Fosbrink said.
“We want to train so we can have a bus evacuated in under two minutes,” said Sage.
Hoevener said that in the 13 years that she has worked as a driver for the school district she has never had to evacuate a bus, but the drills are still among the most important things they can do.
“They need to know that their safety is our No. 1 priority; that’s true for every bus driver,” Hoevener said.
She said the drills give the drivers a chance to explain the rules to the students when they normally wouldn’t be able to because they are driving the bus and can’t talk.
“Sometimes the rules seem silly, but this give us a chance to let them know why we enforce the rules,” Hoevener said.
For George Wooten, this was his first bus evacuation drill with Seymour, though he had other safety drills in the four years he drove for Brownstown.
Wooten said the drill was a good refresher for drivers because there is a lot of stuff going on that can distract them, and the kids needed to understand that too.
“I hope they understand this is an important drill and they need to learn to listen to the bus drivers,” said Wooten.
Every student and driver is required to be a part of the evacuation drill within the first 45 days of a school year, Fosbrink said. This rule is dictated by the state to make sure that safety procedures are in place.
He said buses have several exit points if the front exit is blocked, in addition to a number of other safety features including stop bars, stop lights, safety belts, cameras and other features. These combined with the size of the bus in relation to most vehicles on the road mean that buses are among the safest methods of transportation for students on the road.
“It takes a lot to damage to a bus, and most of the time any accidents we do have are minor,” Fosbrink said.
Though Fosbrink did mention that sometimes the most dangerous component in transporting students to and from school is other drivers.
“Sometimes they just don’t pay attention. We get plenty of people who run the stop arms, and that’s dangerous for everyone involved, especially the kids,” Fosbrink said.
Fosbrink plans on talking to students more about school bus safety in October during National School Bus Safety Week, but for now the bus safety drills serve as a reminder for both the drivers and the students how to behave in a safe manner.