Category Archives: Safe Driving Tips

School Bus Tornado Safety

April 20th, 2017 is Minnesota Statewide Tornado Drill Day. The chances of a bus driver encountering a tornado while on their route is slim, however, drivers should know what to do and what to be aware of. Minnesota’s Severe Storms Awareness Week, will be a good time to review tornado safety plans with school bus drivers and students that ride the bus.

Tornadoes develop in areas where a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect. A Tornado Watch is when the weather conditions in the atmosphere can result in the possibility of developing a tornado. A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted or has been indicated by weather radar. Warnings are issued for counties or communities that are in the path of the tornado’s location, direction and speed.

If a tornado warning is issued in the area, drivers should be aware of the signs of an approaching tornado or storm. Dark, often grey/green skies, wall cloud, large hail and or a loud roar some often relate it to the sound of a freight train. If any of these conditions exist while driving, drivers should take immediate action and seek shelter or stop and pull over.

In the event a tornado is moving toward the area the bus is driving, do not continue in that direction. Instead, the driver should either stop if the storm is close, or retreat at a right angle away from the storms path. NEVER attempt to outrun a tornado that is bearing down on the vehicle. If there is a likelihood the tornado will hit the vehicle, and there is not escape route available, the driver should:

  1. Alert dispatch if time permits, that they will be Evacuating the bus.
  2. Take the students to the nearest ditch. Get as far away from the bus as possible. Take cover on the storm side of the bus, so that the bus will not roll onto the children. Avoid areas with trees.
  3. Instruct the students to lie flat on their stomachs and cover their heads with their hands.

As with all bus evacuations, do not allow students to take their personal belongings with them other than their coats and jackets. These items can be used to cover their heads and bodies from flying debris. If the driver is going to take anything, take the first aid kit. Do not take the children to an underpass. It is not known how much shelter an underpass can provide from flying debris in a violent tornado. Most deaths and injuries in a tornado are caused by flying debris.

If the bus driver spots a funnel and there is no time to evacuate the bus, have the students remain in their seats and lie down below the window covering their heads with their hands. They should shut the bus off and get down away from the door. At anytime there is a house or building nearby that offers shelter and time permits to reach it, use it. Move to the lowest level of the structure away from windows and doors. If there is no basement, use a closet, bathroom or center hallway on the lowest level. Use cushions, blankets, or mattresses to cover the students with. These items will help protect everyone from flying debris.

Once the bus driver thinks the tornado has passed, they should look and listen for further funnel clouds before removing anyone from shelter. Sometimes there can be multiple tornados in one storm. It is absolutely imperative the driver stays calm and keeps the children calm. If the group had to take cover outside in a ditch, return the students to the bus for shelter against hail and rain that can come after a tornado. Attend to any injuries and notify dispatch as soon as possible of their location, any need for paramedics, and what the overall status is after any bus evacuation.

Having and reviewing a School Bus Tornado Safety Plan will prepare bus drivers in the steps necessary to keep the passengers and themselves safe during a tornado emergency. During the week of April 17th – 21st, 2017, the Department of Public Safety and the National Weather Service will be promoting severe weather safety and emergency preparedness information.  This is the perfect time for families, communities, schools, and school bus companies, to review and talk about their emergency plans and how they can prepare for the upcoming severe weather season.


What makes the roads dangerous?

What makes the roads dangerous? Is it the road its self or is it the people driving on the roads? Some would say it could be a combination of the two. I suppose a stretch of highway could seem dangerous if it were a dark, windy road that collects ice when it rains or snows. However, knowing all those things, wouldn’t it fall on the driver to be extra careful and cautious when they are traveling this said highway? Being that a road is a stationary object, never moving unless there were a natural disaster such as an earthquake, wouldn’t it beg to reason the moving object would pose the most danger? So then you have to ask, is the vehicle dangerous, or the operator?

When we take on the task of travel, we have to ask ourselves, “Are we doing this to the best of our ability?” Allowing yourself to become distracted, impatient, and complacent, does not a good safe driver make. You are making the choice to put other people in a dangerous situation. You are choosing to put others lives at risk. If you are one that takes the quality of life for granted, I hope you never have to endure the price, pain and agony felt, when involved in a crash. No matter the injury there is always a price to pay. Not always is there the monetary aspect, but emotional, physical, and mental price. I have been involved in a crash where the other party chose to venture out on the road and drive under the influence of alcohol. That choice he made that night, changed my life forever. I do not know what his life was like before the crash, or what it is like now. What I do know is my life and the life of my loved ones with me that night, has altered our being as a whole.

I am not sure if extra driver training, defensive driving courses or laws banning cell phone use alone would change the way people use the roads. I think people need to change their moral compass. People need to start thinking, caring and making conscience efforts to Do better. We need to begin to use our common sense. Everyone has a lot going on in their lives, but when getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, nothing and no one should take your mind away from just simply paying attention.

Creating safer roads starts with all of us. If everyone practiced what it takes to be a safe driver, everyone on the road would be safe. It sounds simple, almost too good to be true. That’s because it is. Or it could be. Refraining from aggressive driving and using defensive driving could be a start. Knowing the skills and tips to being a safe driver and not using them, defeats the purpose of having them.  Even if you were a perfect, another drivers’ inattention can put everyone at risk.We complicate things when we put the worries of life before the value of life.

Spring Ahead into Construction Season

With warmer weather approaching, construction season will soon be underway.

The MN Department of Transportation will roll out the I-94 Project beginning March 2017. The project is scheduled to last until late July 2018.

Project goals are to resurface the freeway between Nicollet Ave in Minneapolis to Shingle Creek Parkway in Brooklyn Center. There will be repairs made to 50 bridges and most on and off ramps. Lighting, guardrails, drainage system and the tile in the Lowry Tunnel are just some of the upgrades that made the list.

Traffic will be reduced to two lanes in both directions from May to August 2017 to allow for under bridge repairs.  Large trucks weighing 9,000 pounds are going to be prohibited from the Lowry Tunnel at this time. This will cause some alterations to the last few weeks of 2016-2017 school routes and summer school bus routes.

Southbound Hwy 252 to eastbound I-94 and westbound I-694 to eastbound I-94 will be detoured to Hwy 100 for two months. Northbound I-35W ramp getting onto I-94 westbound will be closed and traffic detoured to Hwy 62 and northbound Hwy 100 from May through August 2017.

Wow! This summer is going to be one major traffic headache. Get your back road driving skills together. Learn some short cuts and utilize the side streets. I’m glad they are doing this during the spring/summer months and not the snowy, colder conditions.

I’m excited to see some improvements made to this stretch of I-94 even though I probably won’t be expressing it when I’m stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. It’s been a long time coming. Being in the transportation business, you tend to see a difference in the care of the roads in the metro and it’s surrounding areas. I’m not sure why this end of I-94 has been neglected for so long, but I am looking forward to the smooth highway and no potholes!

To check out more information about closures and dates, go to Project Website

School Bus Railroad Safety

There are a lot of things in life we dismiss however, railroad safety should never be one of them. One program to help bring awareness to railroad safety is Operation LifeSaver.

Operation LifeSaver is a national, nonprofit rail safety education group. They are announcing September 24-30, 2017 as Rail Safety Week. Their goal is to make everyone aware of the need to be educated and keep themselves safe at all railroad crossings.

The reason to commemorate a day for safety is their studies show about every 3 hours someone in the U.S., either a person or a vehicle is hit by a train. Hundreds of Americans each year are killed by train related incidents.

Whenever you are approaching a track, the first thing you should think is that there IS a train. So prepare to slow down. Start checking the traffic around you. If you are driving a school bus, your next obligation would be to prepare to stop, look and listen. I believe all traffic should stop at railroad crossings, but if you are driving a school bus you have no choice, it’s the Law.

It can take up to a mile to stop a train. Make sure you have complete clearance on the other side of the track plus 15 feet extra. Only cross the tracks when you can do it unobstructed by traffic or pedestrians. Trains hang over the tracks 3 feet on both sides. Remember the 15/50 rule. Stop no closer than 15 feet from the tracks and no farther than 50 feet away from the tracks. This will insure the bus is not too close and will get hit with the overhang of the train, and close enough that you can look and listen in both directions for an approaching train.

If you see or hear a train coming, never think you can beat the train. Trains travel at high rates of speed but because they are so large, they appear to be going slowly. Rule of thumb, if you can see a train, wait. Also be aware there may be multiple tracks. Some trains run side by side. Just because you think you can beat the train you can see, you may miss the one you can’t see. So waiting until all tracks are clear is always the safest time to cross the tracks.

When you have determined it is safe to cross the tracks, cross quickly without stopping. Never stop your vehicle or change gears while crossing the tracks. Never drive around lowered or lowering gates. If your vehicle was to get stuck on the track, get out immediately. Run in the opposite direction the train is traveling and run going away from the track. Do not try to recover your vehicle until emergency help has instructed you to. All railroad crossings have an emergency notification sign to report any issue dealing with the signal or stalled vehicle at a crossing.

When you stop, look, and listen, you are increasing the odds you will clear the track safely and live to see another day. Don’t be complacent when it comes to railway safety. Your ability to observe the laws, tracks, traffic, signals and stop signs could make the difference in saving your life and the lives of others.

It’s Snowing?

Well…I was hoping I didn’t have to talk about snow again, but it’s Back!!

While we have been pretty spoiled these last couple weeks, we are after all, Minnesotans. Snow or adverse weather is nothing new to us. However, this morning I couldn’t tell with all the vehicles swerving, speeding, crashing and spinning out. Keep in mind a speeding mind, a speeding process and a speeding vehicle Always results in a crash. Why are we surprised when the white stuff falls? Why do we become impatient with the road and one another?

Realizing we work hard for the money (in my Donna Summer voice), just to get alongside a driver that is impatient and refuses to drive properly or adjust to the icy road and slower traffic. I’m sure no one pays insurance every month, just to pay out a deductible every time it snows. So let’s save some money, headache and our lives, and focus on driving safely.

We must use our common sense. If the road is slippery, Slow Down! If a car in front of you is navigating slowly, it’s probably because they see or foresee an issue. Don’t tailgate. This causes you to have to brake or often or change lanes. Don’t get impatient and honk or get closer to the back bumper of the car in front of you. Trust me, that doesn’t make anyone go faster, ever. These behaviors only cause cautious careful drivers to drive more defensively.

Just remember, while everyone has places to go and people to see, wouldn’t you actually like to get there? We really need to start driving like we do.

Winter Weather Driving Tips

It may be 40 in February, but we’re not out of the woods yet!
As the weather does it’s rollercoaster of hot and cold, we can forget what to do when the weather turns for the worst. Our winter driving skills can get lost if we don’t use them often, but we can never forget these few tips.

  • Prepare your vehicle. All too often you will see a car driving down the street with snow covered windows and windshield. I always wonder how much of the road and other cars they can see. Making sure your vehicle is safe to drive is one of the most important aspects of driving. Check your headlights, taillights, tire pressure and wipers. Always make sure before you pull out of your driveway or away from your home that your vehicle is in good working order.
  • It is okay to leave early. When the weather is uncertain so will be the traffic. Check the weather report the night before. Be aware of your route to work or school. Is it on a clear day a high traffic area? Diminish the risk of crash or being late by choosing to leave earlier, or using an alternate route.
  • Slow down! The faster you are traveling, the longer/further it will take you to slow down or come to a complete stop. If the road is wet or icy, you must allow your vehicle time and space to stop safely.
  • Increase your following distance. This goes hand in hand with driving slower. If it is going to take you longer to stop due to the speed your vehicle is going, then you must also have room. In icy or wet road conditions you should increase your following distance to 4-6 seconds, leaving a space cushion between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes open for emergency vehicles and snow plows. Stay back from them 300 feet or more. Snow plows can create visibility issues and emergency vehicles can make sudden turns or lane changes. Don’t be in a hurry.
  • Black Ice. If the ground looks wet, think Slippery. At intersections, overpasses and bridges black ice can collect and become very dangerous to drive on. These areas can be slippery even when other parts of the road are not. Decrease your speed when approaching intersections and slow down before coming into a curve in the road or going over/under any bridge.

If you are using these tips in your daily winter driving, you are giving yourself a fighting chance on surviving winter. Winter is hard enough to get through. It’s cold, dark and can stretch out over 4 months out of the year. Make your days smoother by getting there safely.