Training system helping school bus drivers improve awareness behind the wheel


Your child’s safety on the school bus is every district’s top priority.

In Wilson County, every driver gets a handbook called the Smith System, and it’s changing the way drivers do their jobs. The training is designed to improve a driver’s awareness behind the wheel.

It starts with classroom work and even quizzes before drivers get behind the wheel. After taking a short class, drivers are required to go out with a trainer. The trainer demos the program first, and then it’s the driver’s turn.

The key is for drivers to call out what they see and what they're doing. One example could be for a driver to say, "I’m pulling up to a four-way stop, and I’m looking in both directions to make sure I’m clear to go."

Edward Diefenbach, a Wilson County bus driver and trainer, has taught his children the Smith System and said any parent could do the same for their kids. He is confident it will change how they drive.

“I’m looking out further, I can see a hazard coming at me when cars pull out from corners or from businesses. I seem them ahead of time. It gives me time to make a decision in my own mind ... oh, am I going to have to slow down?” Diefenbach said.

Tennessee Department of Transportation officials said this is something parents could teach their kids when they are learning to drive. They hope it will eventually become part of local schools' curriculum for driver’s education courses.

Terri Toth, a driver and a trainer for Wilson County Schools, said the program has cut down on the number of accidents involving bus drivers.

Toth said drivers tell her it has a major impact on how they react every time they get behind the wheel.

“It’s like, oh wow, I had forgotten, and now I know why I did that, or if you didn’t teach me this, or I could have hurt somebody getting off the bus, or I could have had somebody hurt because of a car going through here and I didn’t see it," Toth said.

Wilson County forces its drivers to take the course again every two years as a refresher.

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Multimedia Producer

Kara is an Emmy Award-winning digital producer. She is a Cincinnati native and an alumna of the University of South Carolina. She previously worked at WRDW-TV in Augusta, Ga., before moving to Nashville five years ago to work at WSMV-TV.

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