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12 Things Your School Bus Driver Wishes You Knew

Curious why your child has an assigned seat? Here are the secrets parents wish they knew about the peculiar demands of school bus drivers.

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There are assigned seats for a reason

The best way to avoid trouble is by designating kids to certain seats. Drivers plan out seat assignments because it helps maintain order and provides better chances for cooperation between children—especially as they get older, when their on-bus behavior can become even more of a distraction. And when kids do act up, they’ll end up in those empty front seats so the bus driver can keep a close eye out. At the end of the day, drivers are tasked with cleaning up the bus, which means picking up candy wrappers, forgotten textbooks, and other, potentially disgusting items. With assigned seats, it’s pretty easy for drivers to spot who the culprit is. These are the 7 secrets teachers know about your kids that you don’t.

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There’s a routine after every route

When all the kids have de-boarded, drivers must walk the length of the bus to ensure that no one has been left behind. You’d be surprised how often drivers find kids sleeping in the back of the bus or still sitting mesmerized by their phone screens. Once the bus is all clear, the driver puts up a sign in the back window to indicate the bus is empty.

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Other drivers are annoying—and a concern

You may find getting stuck behind a school bus irritating, but the bus driver isn’t too happy about you either—especially if you’re tailgating. Buses are slow by design, and the driver has to use extra caution due to his or her priceless cargo. The bus driver’s biggest pet peeve is when other drivers don’t pay attention when students are loading or unloading the bus. Those flashing lights and swinging stop sign are there for a reason—all drivers in each direction must stop and wait until the kids are safely out of the way. Regardless of the other drivers, here’s why school buses are always yellow.

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The school bus is specially designed to protect kids

Believe it or not, kids are safer taking the bus to school than when you drive them: The chances of getting in an accident are much lower with a school bus. The vehicle is designed to be safe without seat belts, thanks to the padded and high-backed seats. The American School Bus Council (ASBC) points out that the bus can also distribute energy if a crash happens, diminishing the impact (they refer to this strategy as compartmentalization). Because the bus sits so high off the ground, it’s much less likely to sustain damage to the seating area.

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Kids aren’t the only source of trouble

Parents: Bus drivers tell stories of parents telling their kids they don’t have to listen to the driver. Or the parents are missing at drop off time—a no-no for elementary-age children. The driver is not allowed to leave unless the parents are waiting or within eyesight of the driver. Unless the driver has written permission from the parents, he or she will have to drop the kids at the sheriff or police station at the end of the route. Here are 22 things your school principal is secretly thinking.

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They have a lot of free time during the day

As you might imagine, drivers have a lot of time between the morning pick up and the evening drop off. That means they can drop the bus at the garage and catch up on errands, hit the gym, take a nap, or do whatever they want.

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They can’t catch all the mischief

Drivers can be responsible for about 70 children at any given time, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to catch everything happening on the bus. They do have to drive, after all. When instances of bullying occur, they try their best to take care of it; this can involve a trip to the principal’s office, a call to parents, and even suspension from the bus if the behavior is bad enough. However, if your kid doesn’t let the driver know someone called them a name or hit them, then the driver may not realize there is an issue. These are the silent signs your child is being bullied.

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The driver needs your updated contact info

Nothing is more frustrating—or potentially dangerous—than a bus driver being unable to reach you in an emergency. Make sure your numbers are updated on the driver’s emergency contact card.

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Driving the short bus is a perk

Drivers gain seniority just like everyone else, and they earn more; plus, in some districts the senior drivers graduate to smaller, van-type buses, which means fewer students. In addition, they sometimes get to have a bus monitor to ride with them to keep things under control while they drive.

 

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Free field trips

Drivers aren’t required to wait with the bus while the kids and chaperones head out to for fun. The drivers get free access to the place the students visit, and if the trip takes place over lunchtime, they get fed as well. These are our 34 favorite inspiring teacher quotes.

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They appreciate being appreciated

You don’t have to wait until the holidays to show your bus driver some appreciation. The job isn’t easy—drivers get yelled at, ignored, and have to get tough when managing disruptive kids. A nice gift or homemade treats can show them they’re valued, and it can help open the lines of communication.

 

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Most bus drivers actually enjoy being bus drivers

Being a bus driver may not be the most glamorous job, but it provides flexible hours, nice vacation time, and the chance to interact with great kids. Many drivers love getting the chance to be a part of the children’s lives and watching them grow and develop into young adults. Next up, find out the 33 things your child’s teacher won’t tell you.

Amari D. Pollard
Amari D. Pollard is a writer and audience development strategist. She is currently a Roy H. Park Fellow at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and previously worked as the Head of Audience Development at The Week. Her writing focuses on politics, culture, relationships, and health. In addition to Reader’s Digest she has been published at The Week, Bustle, PopSugar, Inside Lacrosse, and more. She has a B.A. in Communications from Le Moyne College.