Thursday, March 27, 2008

Programs for School Vehicle Riders and Caregivers

First Rider Program: Overview
This overview provides general information on the First Rider Program. More detailed information is available in the First Rider Program: Operations Manual, in the section of this Guide titled "Information for the School Bus Safety Professional".
What ... is the First Rider program?
The First Rider program is an education and awareness program. It is designed to promote school bus safety to young children and their parents.
It familiarizes young children who are beginning school with school buses and helps them overcome any fears they may have about riding on the "big yellow bus". It also provides information to children and their parents on school bus safety procedures, including how to get on and off the bus safely. The program is planned as a fun learning experience for the participants.
Who ... is it for?
The First Rider program is targeted at young children who will be entering the school system in September. It is primarily intended for those children who will be using school buses to go to and from school on a regular basis. It also provides information to parents on school bus safety procedures.
How ... does it work?
The First Rider program can be sponsored by local school boards, school bus operators, police, volunteers, etc. The program is approximately 45 minutes in length and usually includes:
* A safety video,
* A ride on a school bus,
* A review of school bus safety procedures,
* Presentations (can include information from school bus driver, i.e. circle check, police, etc.,) and
* Related activities such as looking at a stationary bus.
Depending on the number of children, several First Rider programs can be scheduled for the same day, or over several days, and at varying locations, usually prior to the beginning of the school year.
Information on the program is provided by local school boards to the prospective parents at kindergarten registration or orientation and is also distributed to the local media prior to the event. The event takes place in a school parking lot or other area away from traffic, with adjacent facilities for watching the video and participating in the activities. Refreshments (often donated by local commercial sponsors) may also be available as part of the program.
The event usually begins with registration. Children watch a video (i.e. Winnie the Pooh's Great School Bus Adventure). Presentations can also be scheduled at this time. Afterwards, children proceed to the bus. The rules learned in the video are reviewed, and then children board the bus with their parents.
Children are driven to a designated area (which may be the same or a different school). Children then get off the bus (bus rules are reviewed again). Rules for loading and walking in front of the bus are reviewed. Presentations and refreshments may also be scheduled for this time. Children may receive a certificate for completing the program. Parents may also receive additional information on school board transportation policies and safety procedures, such as ensuring that children are dropped off and picked up on time and that young children are supervised while waiting at the bus stop.
The program is normally provided free to participants.
When ... does it happen?
The program is usually scheduled for a time in late August or early in September in order to capture the child population that will be beginning school in September. It can be scheduled for any time that is convenient for participants and for those delivering the program.
Where ... is it?
The program itself takes place on school property or some other secure location with associated facilities nearby.
The program has been successful in a number of communities, including the Ottawa area and Thunder Bay. Other communities have successfully implemented similar education and awareness programs in their jurisdictions.
School bus transportation is extremely safe. To maintain this safety record, children and their parents must be familiar with school bus safety rules such as how to get on and off the bus safely and how to behave on the bus. The First Rider program is an opportunity for school boards and school bus operators to introduce school bus safety rules to children, and for parents to become familiar with school bus procedures.
It also allows parents and children to ask questions about school bus safety and related issues.
How ... do I get more information about the First Rider program?
Contact the Ministry of Transportation's Regional Planner for your area. This person will be able to provide additional information and suggestions for implementing a First Rider program.
John Warkentin Southwest Region (519) 873-4420
Paul Allore Eastern Region (613) 545-4608
Jeff Griffith Northern Region (705) 497-5453
Tom Marinis Northwest Region (807) 473-2198
Central Region 416-235-5486

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