Students served safety

A volunteer-based bus safety program could attract Government funding after a recent Gold Coast trial

Students served safety
Students served safety

By David Goeldner | August 24, 2012

After 12 years of volunteer service to bus safety education in south-east Queensland, the primary school-based Bus-it-Safe program is on the cusp of official status.

Already endorsed by the Queensland Bus Industry Council, Bus-it-Safe was recently trialled at Ormeau state school on the northern end of the Gold Coast, and the results prove its popularity and value as an education tool.

Bus-it-Safe was developed at Caboolture Bus Lines by co-owner Janette Craike in 2000, and has been taught to 15,000 students for the past 12 years solely on a volunteer basis.

But government funding might not be far away following August’s trial at Ormeau, facilitated by TransLink and conducted by Craike with Surfside Buslines’ Health, Safety and Environment Manager Adrian Barnett.

Craike explains the program came about from Caboolture Bus Line’s experience with student behaviour and how it impacted on drivers.

"We had a couple of tragedies where students ran out in front of the bus, so we looked at what was out there to educate children about this – but there was nothing," she says.

Craike took it on herself to develop a program specific for Caboolture Bus Lines.

Caboolture Bus Lines has a fleet of 40, and is heavily school-based, which is one reason why Craike became dedicated to the program.

"The program gives students an understanding of how to be a safe traveller on the bus," he says.

" It’s giving them an understanding of consequences of unsafe behaviour, and also the impact their behaviour has on the driver."

The program focuses on the bus driver as the most important person on the bus, driving and controlling the vehicle, and responsible for the lives of children and their safety.

"Bus drivers have a difficult job to do and a big point we make with children is when the driver looks in the rear vision mirror to check student behaviour, eyes are being taken off the road," Craike says.

"We try to get students to understand they need to work as a team to support the driver, and they can do that by being a safe traveller and doing the right thing on the bus."

Craike says students are reminded of the importance of looking after each other.

"Just like at school there are rules and a code of conduct to follow, which has been developed by Queensland Transport," she says.

"Students understand that if they are not being a safe traveller on the bus, then there are consequences and they can be put off the bus for a certain period of time."

Craike describes Bus-it-Safe as a community initiative, given it has been delivered to schools at no cost.

"It has credibility because it has been going for so long, and the Queensland Government with TransLink and other operators are starting to see its value," Craike says.

But while Craike has dedicated a decade to school bus safety education at Caboolture, to extend the program further will require funding.

"Any support from the Government is pivotal in getting this program out," she says.

"It’s such an important program – we are giving children life skills, making children safe, and parents are going to feel secure that their child has gone through the program."

Craike says parents are starting to embrace the program, and Surfside’s Barnett has nothing but praise for Craike.

"This is a very positive program," Barnett says.

"We get children at a young age, and by teaching them safety on and around the bus, it should be ingrained in them by the time they get to high school."

He says there are two parts to the Bus-it-Safe lesson.

"The first part is conducted at the bus and the second part is a video presentation and a talk on road safety held in the school hall," Barnett says.

And rather deliver the course to all students at one time, the program is adapted to various stages of the child’s progression at school, with four versions, starting with preparatory (pre-school) and Year 1, then years 2 and 3, years 4 and 5, and on to year 6 with modified approaches at each year level.

"I cannot fault Ormeau school – the children have been exceptional, the teachers have been so helpful and the kids have taken it all in," Barnett says.

Ormeau State School student Taylah Harwood, who took part in the program, spoke enthusiastically of its benefits.

For students yet to experience the Bus-it-Safe program Taylah says the main message was not to stand or move in front of the bus, or anywhere that has a danger zone.

"I didn’t realise that people standing in front of the bus had been killed or needed surgery," she says.

Taylah and her colleagues learnt about bus blind spots, a key part of the Bus-It-Safe program.

Ormeau State School Principal Heather Andrew says the Bus-it-Safe program is giving the students a complete bus safety package – safety at school, at the bus stop, and as bus passengers.

"I think one of the major standouts is the blind spot issue – blind spots for the bus driver, blind spots for the children – and their understanding of that has been sensational," Andrew says.

Andrew says about 500 students from Prep to Year 6 at Ormeau attended the first week of the pilot program in mid-August.

"The program has been very successful, and it was a great week for the boys and girls," she says.

Craike says the program would assist the Queensland Government to get more children using buses.

As for working with other bus operators, such as Surfside, to roll-out the program, Craike believes it’s important to ‘support each other’.

"I think we need to work together and share skills, and by helping other operators we are going to get this program out state-wide," she says.

The Bus-it-Safe program received an RACQ Road Safety Award in 2002.

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