Driver Attitude for School Bus Drivers nhtsa school Bus Driver In-Service Safety Series

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Driver Attitude for School Bus Drivers
NHTSA School Bus Driver In-Service Safety Series

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this module, participants will be able to:

  1. State the impact the school bus drivers’ attitude has on the way they drive and handle the bus, how the students behave, and how the drivers feel about the job.

  2. Describe what they need to do to reduce stress on the job.

Time Required

1 hour

Training Methods

  1. Participative lecture

  2. Guided discussion

Training Materials

  1. PowerPoint slides and projection system

  2. Flipchart and marker

  3. Handouts: Tips for Maintaining a Good Driver Attitude, Handout #1

Lesson Plan

Instructor Notes

I. Introduction and Overview

Say that you want to welcome everyone to the course. Introduce yourself.

20 minutes

Show Slide 1.

Explain that the purpose of the module is to review your role as a school bus driver, the stresses you might encounter, and how to handle those stresses.

Show Slide 2.

Real-World Example

  • TOM:

  • He left his house late one morning because a pipe had sprung a leak and he had to call the plumber.

  • He got to the bus lot shortly before he had to pull out.

  • He did a quick pre-trip inspection and didn’t notice that his left rear turn signal lamp was out.

  • He was late getting to his first stop because a storm the night before had knocked out a traffic light.

  • At his fourth stop, a parent wanted to talk to him about the boys who seemed to be picking on her daughter on the bus.

  • At his seventh stop, a second grade boy (who is always a handful) dropped an art project that blew under the bus and then tried to retrieve the art project without telling Tom what he was doing.

  • As Tom was waiting to turn left into school (still shaking from the incident with the second grader), people behind him started honking and passing on the right. They were unaware he was turning because his turn signal lamp was out.

  • HARRY:

  • He arrived at the lot early and got a cup of coffee.

  • He looked over the bulletin board and jotted down the date of an upcoming drivers’ meeting.

  • He visited with some of the other bus drivers.

  • He did a thorough pre-trip inspection and noticed a soft tire, so he put some air in the tire and let maintenance know they would have to fix it later.
  • Once he had started his route, he noticed that the construction had been completed on the old narrow bridge and that there was now plenty of room for the bus to cross.

  • At his fifth stop, the seventh grader who is usually still at her front door when the bus arrives and usually comes running across two people’s yards was actually waiting at the bus stop.

  • She then got on the bus and talked quietly with her friends for the rest of the ride.

  • As he was merging onto Route 73 (always a busy road), a motorist slowed down to let him in.

  • When he arrived at the school, the assistant principal was there to help him with unloading.


Who do you think had the safer trip this morning, Tom or Harry?

Answer: Harry.

Say that most drivers have likely experienced both good and bad mornings. Regardless, your job as a bus driver is to safely transport kids from one place to another.

The Link Between Safety and Attitude

Explain that safety starts with you and your attitude.

Emphasize that your attitude sets the stage for:

  • How you drive

  • How you feel about your job

  • How the students and parents respond to you and to other school personnel

  • What kind of day your students have

Show Slide 3.

Tell drivers that your attitude rubs off on others too. You need to have a positive attitude if you want to be a safe and successful school bus driver.

Show Slide 4.

Learning Objectives

Explain that, by the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • Explain the stresses of a school bus driver

  • State how to handle them

Stress that, in order to be a good school bus driver, you must like your students and you must like your job.

  • You don’t have to “love” every student who rides your bus, but you should like working and being with students.

  • If you don’t, you will find it hard to keep a good attitude about being a school bus driver.


What do you do when you have a student who is hard to like?

Conduct a brief discussion, keeping it focused on tips for working with students who are hard to like. Some drivers may want to talk about how the kids have changed, how bad they are, or how student discipline has changed. Keep bringing the discussion back to brainstorming positive strategies.

II. The Stresses of a School Bus Driver

Say that it isn’t always easy to have a positive attitude.

20 minutes

Show Slide 5.


What are the things that make it stressful to drive a school bus?

Conduct a discussion and write answers on the flipchart. There are two ways to teach this section.

Method 1: Generate the list of stressful things and, as you generate the list, have some people give examples of what they mean. For instance, one driver may have a bus with some particular maintenance problem that is stressful for her. Another driver might be especially irked by stop-arm violators.

Method 2: Generate a list and use the examples of Tom and Harry to guide a discussion about what problems they encountered during their morning runs.

Either way, be careful to not let this become a gripe session.


  1. Students
  • Tom had the second grader who didn’t respect the danger zone and almost ran under the bus.

  • Harry had the seventh grader who is usually late and noisy but today was on time and quiet.

If you decide to use Method 1, you may skip over the bullet points relating to Tom and Harry.

  1. Vehicle Maintenance

  • Tom had the burned out turn signal lamp, which he didn’t notice before the trip.

  • Harry had the soft tire, which he dealt with temporarily and made arrangements to have fixed later.

  1. Personal and Home

  • Tom had the plumbing problem, which was probably on his mind throughout the trip. It made him feel rushed all morning.

  • Harry didn’t have any particular problems, and he even had time to visit with friends.

  1. Vehicle Operation

  • Both buses ran okay today, although they had some safety-related problems (burned out turn signal and low tire pressure).

  1. Weather

  • While the weather wasn’t bad today, yesterday’s storm caused problems for Tom.

  1. Road Conditions

  • The bridge that had been a problem for Harry is finally fixed.

  1. Other Motorists

  • People honked at Tom and tried to pass him on the right when he was trying to turn into the school.

  • A nice motorist let Harry merge onto busy Route 73.

  1. Parents of Students

  • Tom had to deal with the parent who was unhappy about student behavior on the bus.

  1. Management/Driver Relations

  • Harry is going to participate in the upcoming drivers’ meeting.

State that there may be other stresses that drivers will encounter not on this list.

Show Slide 6.


How can you tell if someone is under too much stress?

Conduct a discussion and write answers on flipchart.

With the group, make a list of the ways people behave when they are under a lot of stress. Don’t spend too much time on this. The list should include the following:

  • Feel tired, sick, run down

  • Have headaches

  • Abuse alcohol and/or other drugs

  • Smoke more

  • Have poor control of emotions (anger, sadness, irritability)

  • Feel confused, depressed, tense

  • Have changes in sleeping and eating habits

  • Feel negative

  • Can’t concentrate

III. What To Do

20 minutes

Show Slide 7.

Cause and Effect

State that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that 92% of all crashes are caused by driver poor performance.

  • Poor performance for school bus drivers is related to poor vehicle operation.

  • And poor operation is usually a result of a driver’s bad attitude.

2% of crashes are caused by knowledge deficit and 6% by equipment deficit.

How to Maintain a Good Driver Attitude

Review the following ways to maintain a good driver attitude as your drivers follow along.

  1. Get a good night’s sleep; keep alert physically and mentally.

  1. Try to leave personal problems at home; seek help if you need it.

  1. Arrive at work early to allow time for a thorough pre-trip inspection and to catch up on important news.

Distribute handout, Tips for Maintaining a Good Driver Attitude. Review it with participants.

Show Slide 8.

  1. Greet everyone with a smile and by name. They will likely return the greeting.

  1. Be patient, even-tempered, and understanding. Show respect if you wish to receive it.

  1. Bring a sense of humor to the job; be able to laugh at yourself.

  1. Learn to relax. When you’re not driving, close your eyes, breathe evenly, think about the tension draining from your body. Repeat, “I’m calm and I’m good at what I do.”

  1. Be free from the effects of alcohol, illegal drugs, and medications – both prescription and over-the-counter.

  1. Extend a hand to new drivers.

  1. Watch for stressful symptoms in others and alert a supervisor.

  1. Be a part of the team.

  • Get involved with bus lot activities
  • Join with other drivers to solve problems

  • Participate at safety meetings

  1. Ask questions if you are unsure about something.

  1. Believe in your ability to do a good job.

Pre-Trip Inspection

Tell drivers that, in addition to doing a pre-trip vehicle inspection, it is a good idea to do a “personal” pre-trip inspection as well. Ask yourself:

  • Have you left your personal problems at home?

  • Are you mentally and physically alert?

  • Are you ready to greet the job and the students with a smile and an even temperament?

  • If you are running late, have you taken a few minutes to relax?


Do any of you have other ideas for how you keep a good attitude?

Keep the discussion focused and brief. Take this opportunity to discuss any “driver attitude” problems you and/or the participants see coming in your work environment.


Are you ready to be a safe driver?

Remind participants that:

  • Their job is to safely transport kids from one place to another.

  • This is sometimes a stressful responsibility.

  • There are ways to reduce the stress they feel each day.

Show Slide 9.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

School Bus Driver In-Service Safety Series

Instructor Guide

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