When you are braking a school bus, you should brake gently and over a long period of time to keep your passengers in their seats - remember your passengers are not secured. You should also make sure that the wheels are straight throughout braking. See the Saskatchewan Driver's Handbook for a discussion of braking techniques.
You should try to avoid backing your school bus whenever possible; it is a difficult and potentially dangerous practice. In fact, backing a bus on school property is not permitted unless you have a responsible person to guide you.
During your bus driver's test, you will have to demonstrate that you can back straight, and carry out a two-point turn.
To back straight, use your side mirrors to see where you are going.
Activate your four-way flashers. After making the appropriate checks (including checking the road you will be backing into), back slowly into the side road, beginning your turn early and turning gradually. Do not wait until you are at the corner to make a sharp turn.
Mirror use and shoulder checks
Check your two outside mirrors to see if your gates are open. See the Saskatchewan Driver's Handbook. Use your convex mirrors to see if there are any vehicles in your blind spot. A shoulder check to your left may also help, but you will have to rely on your convex mirrors to see what is on the right side of your vehicle.
Since you are driving a wide vehicle, you should drive in the centre of the lane as often as possible. Your lane position becomes critical on turns and curves.
It is difficult to stay in one lane when making a right turn with a long vehicle. Often you have to choose between crossing the lane line before turning the corner or after the corner. In most circumstances, when clear, cross the lane line after the corner (see Example A), provided the road design and traffic allows you to do so. There may, however, be situations where using Example B would be better. In doing so, every effort must be made to approach the turn in a position that partially blocks the curb lane preventing traffic from getting in between the bus and the curb. Either choice is acceptable if done safely.
Because school buses make frequent stops and starts, it is best to avoid passing slow-moving vehicles. If you must pass, you should only do so on a long straight stretch of highway with a sight distance of at least 50 seconds. Practise the passing judgment system described in the Saskatchewan Driver's Handbook.
Sharing the road
As a school bus driver, you must always watch out for other motorists, especially when pulling into or out of traffic. Try to time your entry into traffic so that you will disrupt the traffic flow as little as possible. This courtesy should prevent any close calls with other vehicles.
General procedures for stopping the bus and moving back into traffic
- Check your rear-view mirrors early when you know a school bus stop is approaching. Consider traffic patterns for both following and oncoming vehicles:
- Is traffic relatively clear, and can the stop be made with little or no hazard?
- Is there a long line of following vehicles waiting to pass the bus?
- Does a following driver appear impatient and anxious to get by?
- If possible, let following traffic pass, signal your intention, reduce speed and, if safe and practical, move to the edge of the driving lane or shoulder.
- Activate your safety lights at least 100 m before the bus stop on a highway with a speed limit of more than 50 km/h and at least 25 m before the bus stop on a highway with a speed limit of 50 km/h or less. This will give other drivers ample warning.
- As you approach the stop, pull the bus to the edge of the road. You should attempt to stop as far to the right as practical. But stay at least 1 m (3 ft.) away from any waiting students, just in case one accidentally pushes another or slips while trying to get close to the bus.
- While stopped, you should set the parking brake and shift into neutral. This prevents the bus from moving while students are loading or unloading.
- Leave your safety lights on, cancel your turn signal and check that oncoming and following traffic is completely stopped. When you activate the release on the door handle, the stop arm will go out on some buses. On other buses, you must activate the stop arm separately.
- When it is safe to do so, open the door of the bus and allow the students to board or leave.
- When students have been safely loaded or unloaded, turn off your safety lights. In winter, you can close the door, but do not lock it until you are sure your students are safe. The stop arm will stay activated until the appropriate time.
- When traffic is clear, signal, pull back onto the highway and proceed to your next stop.
Different locations have different hazards. Discuss the particular problems of loading and unloading on your route with your supervisor, or with a school bus driver who has had your route before.
Your loading and unloading operations will be successful if you are patient and courteous and refuse to allow the students to leave the bus until it is safe for them to do so.
When unloading students in an urban area where use of safety lights and stop arms are prohibited, use this as a guide:
- Unload on the same side of the street as the student's home.
- Unload as near to the residence as possible.
- Maintain eye or mirror contact with the student until the student is well away from the bus.
- If it is impractical to unload on the same side of the street as the student's home, unload as near to an intersection as possible.
- Instruct the students to proceed across the street only when your bus has cleared the intersection and it is safe to do so.
- Bring the matter of the street crossing to the attention of your superior so the parents may be notified the student is required to cross the street.
Motorists who pass unlawfully
In your daily travels, you may come across motorists who unlawfully pass your school bus when the safety lights and stop arm are activated. In such cases, the driver may be given a warning or be charged by police. It is up to you to report any violations of school bus legislation to the police. You must first establish that the law was broken, then try to identify the driver. You should obtain the licence plate number of the vehicle.
Emergency evacuation procedures
For information on the proper procedure for evacuating the bus in case of an emergency, contact:
- Saskatchewan Safety Council
- 445 Hoffer Dr.
- Regina, SK S4N 6E2
The Traffic Safety Act and regulations are the law for school bus operations, vehicle equipment and maintenance. The Education Act and regulations provide legislation which school boards must adhere to. You should be familiar with these laws as they apply to you. Each board has its own policy which clearly specifies what you, as a school bus driver, must do. You must know the policy and procedures in detail and carry them out.