Illustration: Kevin Haegele
By now, most of the industry has heard the stories of young passengers who lost their lives while traveling in a chartered vehicle or following a chartered vehicle ride. This includes a 19-year old passenger stepping in front of a speeding vehicle after disembarking a bus, a 16-year old who stuck his head out of an emergency roof hatch and struck his head on a bridge, and an 11-year old girl who fell out of an emergency window exit. Obviously, these incidents demand that we take immediate steps to ensure the safety of young passengers.
Here are some tips to help keep young passengers safe while aboard your vehicle:
When selecting a driver for a vehicle intended for youth, carefully consider your choice. Ideally, drivers certified for taking school pupils are the best choice because of their training and experience. If you don’t have a driver with this training, choose drivers who have children. Parents tend to be parents at all times whether watching their own children or strangers. They tend to see and recognize things that non-parents may not observe or perceive as a possible danger. Drivers who have never had kids may become stressed by the behavior of children creating an unfamiliar distraction while driving. Younger drivers tend to relate to their young passengers better than older drivers.
Alcohol, drugs and weapons can become an immediate problem and contribute to an unsafe environment. When driving unsupervised children with a driver who is the only adult onboard, call for extra precautions. Anything brought in the vehicle such as purses, backpacks, knapsacks etc. should be checked for weapons, drugs or alcohol. Remember that a bottle of water may not really be filled with water. Gin and vodka look the same as water. If someone opposes the inspection, invite that person to place belongings in the cargo hold or trunk until the trip ends. In the era we live in, this is not an unreasonable request and is for the safety of all others aboard the vehicle. Watch for repeated restroom trips or students following immediately behind each other into the restroom.
Emergency exit usage
Because there have been three deaths in 2012 directly related to emergency exits, it is important that you warn your passengers to keep their hands off of any emergency exit handles, levers or knobs unless a situation exists that warrants the use of the exits. Meanwhile, they should be informed of how the exits are intended to function and how dangerous it can be to activate an emergency exit while the vehicle is moving and that serious injury or death can and has occurred.
Maintain order and safety
While the intention of the charter may be to have fun, drivers must maintain a safe environment. Students may not logically think about the consequences of their actions, and as the “captain of the ship,” drivers must constantly evaluate the behavior and take corrective action when needed. This may include bringing the vehicle to a complete stop to discuss and demand that students conform to policy or rules. Companies should provide guidelines for drivers about acceptable behavior of students and stand behind their drivers when they must make decisions based upon conditions. For example, a driver may demand that all passengers be seated during stop and go traffic situations. Some companies may allow dancing while traveling but drivers should be empowered to overrule this based on their discretion of the roadway.