We are writing in response to a derogatory letter about school bus safety ("School bus safety," Krista Andress) printed in the May 13 Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Please take a moment and imagine driving a 32,000-pound vehicle on snow-packed and icy roads with priceless cargo of incomprehensible value. You likely have at least one college degree and numerous years of experience as a "highly paid professional," but you opt to contribute to children's safety while living in this beautiful valley. Each day, you spend your work day with 70 students, often in treacherous weather, shuttling them safely and skillfully with one of the best safety records in the state. Frequently, this 16-ton vehicle has to avoid inattentive drivers that seem to think talking on their cell phone is more important than paying attention to stop signs, young children on the roadsides or big yellow vehicles.
Now, stop imagining and realize that this is the daily responsibility of all school bus drivers in the Steamboat Springs School District - not just once in a while, but every day of the school year. Along with driving safely, we also go through cases of Kleenex during cold and allergy season, many extra hours commuting with mops and body fluid spill kits during flu season, hundreds of Band-Aids from too much playground fun, bulging Dumpsters filled with trash bags brimming with leftover or spilled lunches and old banana peels, and the list goes on. Surprisingly, each Steamboat school bus driver is required to have current medic first aid certification, although we have students for just a fraction of their school day.
Riding the bus is the "green" thing to do. However, few parents ever discuss the school bus safety rules after they sign the bus contract with their students at the beginning of each school year. If Ms. Andress truly is concerned about providing her child the safest transportation to school, the Colorado Department of Education research has documented that a passenger in a car is exponentially more likely to be in an accident than a passenger on a school bus.
Each time a student stands up, yells, uses foul language, harasses fellow students, innocently tosses something to a friend, etc., it takes the driver's focus off the road. It is confounding why even a small amount of time is not spent at home discussing the ramifications of this behavior to all on a school bus rather than relaying false information in a letter to the editor. Further, as an almost nine-year driver for our district, I have had only two parents ever take the time to come in and meet with me. I have contracts with more than 100 students each year. Do the math.
The old airline adage "Come fly with me" certainly would be honored if ever a parent wanted to "Come ride with me" and witness firsthand the high degree of safety and professionalism exemplified on the school buses in our district. Sadly, too easily one parent composed a grossly inaccurate letter and submitted it for printing in a local paper. If you feel strongly enough to besmirch a great group of employees with false statements, we suggest your energy might be better spent cohesively working to research, resolve and improve things that may be falling short of your expectations.