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School bus drivers know the rules to make every bus stop a safe stop. They think of every child on their bus as one of "their kids" and would do anything in their power to make sure nothing bad happens to any of "their kids". Unfortunately, accidents happen. December 16th, 2004 our 6 yr old son Jacob was killed when he was run over by his own school bus. We started researching bus safety after Jacob's accident. We wanted to know why this happened and how to keep it from happening again. When we looked at the details of Jacob's accident we found several small problems that led to a big tragedy.

The Positioning Of The Bus At The Stop:

Look at every stop on your route and ask yourself these questions. 

  • Is it as safe as it can be? 

  • Are the children moving away from the front of the bus? 

  • Are they always in your line of sight? 

Jacob had to walk down the side of the bus toward the back, then step off a curb before turning back to home. He was in the danger zone longer than he should have been and the driver was not able to keep his eyes on him at all times.

The Drivers Head Count:

A driver is supposed to count, recount, and count again

  • Count as the children line up to get off the bus

  • Recount as they walk away from the bus

  • Count Again as they reach safety. 

In a perfect world it is that easy. In the real world life happens. The day Jacob was killed the driver was distracted and lost sight of Jacob. The national safety rule book states that "if you lose sight of a child you are to lock down your bus and get off to physically locate the child". Drivers are told they should never get off the bus while students are still on the bus.  Some where we have to find a middle ground to make sure all the children are safe, those on the bus as well as those off the bus. I think the best solution is to make sure always do your head count and teach your kids to help you with your head count. Teach them to stay together, to stop when they reach their safe place, and to give you a wave before you move the bus or they move on toward home. Make it a team effort to keep everyone safe.

Check Your Mirrors:

Before you pull away from a stop you have to check and recheck all your mirrors. This is to make sure traffic is clear and that no child is near the bus. On the day of Jacob's accident a skate boarder skated down the hill past the bus on the left. This distracted the driver for a moment. He later said he didn't remember checking his right side mirror. His supervisor said he had to have checked them because it was his habit to check them. I know that sometimes when something becomes habit you don't have to give it much attention. Don't let your mirror check become such a habit that you don't actually see what you are looking at. Where Jacob fell his driver should have been able to see him. When the driver became distracted he should have gone back to the beginning and started his mirror check again. Don't let yourself become complacent. If your safety check starts to become a habit, stop, take a deep breath, and start over. Make sure you really see what you are looking at.


Every year you are required to attend several meetings about bus safety. You have special summer training sessions before going back to school, bus safety week in October, and refresher meetings throughout the year. Sometimes it feels like you are hearing the same thing over and over. Don't let it just go in one ear and out the other. Become active in your own education, but don't just stop there, become a teacher! Teach every one of your kids about the danger zone and how to be safe around the bus. Send letters home to the parents to make sure they know about bus safety and how they can help you keep their kids safe. Don't just tell the kids to sit down and be quiet, talk to them. Tell them why it is important, that any distraction to you can be an injury to one of their friends. Education is the key. Jacob had never been to a bus safety assembly; in fact his 16 year old brother had never been to one. Make sure none of your kids slip through the cracks. Share your education with them and their parents. The more they know the easier your job will be.

The Danger Zone:

The danger zone is an area around the bus where a driver may not be able to see. This area extends up to 10 feet on each side of the bus and up to 15 feet from the front and the back of the bus. This is something that you know. Most parents have never heard of the danger zone and in the past a lot of children had never heard of it either. Jacob died in the danger zone. It is the most dangerous area for a child to be. Make sure you are always aware of the danger zone. More importantly make sure all of your kids know about it. We recommend that every bus have a danger zone poster displayed where the children see it as they exit the bus. We also ask that the bus driver remind each child to be aware of the danger zone every time they exit the bus.

  Each of these items separately may cause an accident. When they all came together they caused a tragedy. This tragedy affected not only our family, but our whole community. Our schools were deeply affected; Jacob's classmates were only 6 yrs old and didn't know how to deal with the death of a friend. The other children on the bus ranged from kindergarten to high school. Each one of them reacted differently, the youngest were afraid to get back on the bus. The oldest had to deal with what they saw out the back window. Every one of them was injured that day; on the inside. Our bus driver died of a heart attack just over a year later, it is believed that it was a result of the deep hurt the accident caused him. We now travel and teach school bus safety to drivers and children. We also welcome parent involvement.  We have been told by drivers that they have heard this information over and over, but that it takes on a whole new meaning when they hear it from the parent s of a child that was killed.  We cant change what happened to our family, we just hope we can keep it from happening to another child, bus driver, school and community. Don't let this become your story.

 Copyright © 2010 J.A.C.O.B.