Maine bus driver shares safety tips as school year approaches

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 5:50 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - According to the Maine Department of Education, 80% of students in the state take the bus to and from school each day.

It’s an important job for drivers like Gary Brown, who’s spent the past 22 years putting safety first. Brown says the most important thing other drivers can do is respect the flashing lights and stop signs on a school bus.

Give them plenty of room so kids can get off and on safely.

If you find yourself frustrated because you’re consistently getting stuck behind a bus, Brown suggests a simple tweak to your routine.

“After the second week, there will be a three-minute window. So, either leave for work a few minutes later or earlier and you won’t be in that rush because you get stuck behind a school bus. That’s the main complaint. People get anxious behind a bus, and they’ll pass them through red lights or whatever else because they’re impatient,” Brown said.

When it comes to preparing kids to take the bus -- whether it’s for the first time or they just need a refresher -- remind them that a quiet bus is a safe bus.

“Any noise or any action that that child makes, they’re putting the whole bus in danger. Because, instinctively, if I hear a noise, I check that mirror and that one, two seconds I’m checking there, I’m not watching the road,” he said. “Just explain to them how any little noise is going to distract the bus driver.”

It’s a hard, sometimes thankless job, but there’s a reason he keeps coming back behind the wheel year after year.

With many districts facing driver shortages, I wanted to hear Gary’s pitch for the profession. He says getting to know the kids and seeing their achievements as they grow up is the best part.

“Watching them grow in sports, or just in their lives, is so [very] rewarding! It really is,” he said. “And then when you try to get done with a bunch of seniors. You say, ‘Hey, I’m done,’ you look back and they have a brother or sister that’s a freshman this year. You say, ‘Eh, I’ll wait until he or she graduates.’”

And there’s one other lesser-known perk, too.

“If you’re like me and you totally love high school sports, you get in free,” Brown said with a laugh.

If you’re thinking about becoming a bus driver, Gary says many departments could use someone who can pick up even a one-way route in the morning or afternoon.

He says the main qualification for the job is someone who loves kids and will prioritize their safety as if the kids were their own.