Watch it, Buster!
Robotic ‘school bus’ helps teach youngsters how to be safe riders
By Kristen Bishop, The Decatur Daily 8/25/06
CADDO — Children roared with laughter Wednesday at a bus-safety presentation as they normally would for a circus clown.
Buster, a talking robotic school bus, visited East Lawrence Elementary School to teach kindergarten through third-grade students lessons about how to stay safe while riding the bus. Normally this topic would put children to sleep, but the students were wide awake anticipating Buster’s next joke.
“Now wiggle around like you’ve got a frog in your britches,” Buster told Tanita Bibbs, a student in Casey Nelson’s first-grade class.
Tanita quickly jumped around, swinging her arms while the audience cheered.
“Well, that actually had nothing to do with bus safety, but I just wanted to see if you could follow directions,” said Buster. “And it’s pretty funny to see what someone looks like with a frog in their britches.”
The talking bus, operated by Bryan Nash, a former safety inspector for the state of Alabama, is full of wisecracks, but his message is serious. Ten passengers die in school bus crashes each year. Three times as many pedestrians die each year getting on or off school buses.
Nash said he believes his program can help students, bus drivers, teachers and parents prevent these fatalities with a few simple guidelines.
“I focus on the danger points around the bus, what kids can do to get ready for the bus and loading and unloading,” he said. “Most accidents happen in the danger zone.” The danger zone is the area within 10 feet of the bus where most drivers have limited, if any, visibility.
Nash has been providing the service to schools since January, and more school systems are getting on board. He is already booked through January 2007. One of those stops is Moulton Elementary School on Thursday.