Back-to-school is just around the corner and so is dropping your child off at the school bus stop. News 13's Jeff Platt found out what new bus drivers are doing to prepare for this school year. Trainees go through a three week process in order to receive their certification, because school buses, unlike other big vehicles, carry the most precious cargo.
Jim Hirz has trained 60 of Natrona County School District's bus drivers.
Hirz said, "It's a huge responsibility and I take it very seriously. I'm there with them, I'm their coach, I'm the one that helps them to succeed and I'm just as nervous on test day as they are."
And he has every right to be nervous Hirz and his trainees both know what's at stake.
Mark Peterson is currently training under Hirz. He said "You really have to come here and be mentally engaged because you're taking kids lives in your hands."
Which is why trainees don't only learn how to drive they learn how to inspect every inch of the vehicle.
Hirz said, "You feel like you overwhelm them with the information they need to know to pass the test to pass the test."
And there's a lot of information Hirz's students need to absorb.
In the first part of their training they need to take four written exams, before they can even get behind the wheel. And then they've got to take another test before children can get on the bus.
As a father of four Peterson says that's the real test.
Peterson said, "That will be a little more of a chellenge and weed out a lot of the people who aren't prepared for dealing with kids."
Hirz said, "You're trying to concentrate on the driving like we all need to do as we're driving. Problem is you've got up to 70 children on board who are creating that distraction."
So even after five tests and a three week program newly-approved drivers still won't go it alone. They ride with a veteran driver and are fed into the system gradually. Peterson says the hands-on guidance helps a lot, but parents sharing this message with their kids can help even more.
Peterson said, "It's such a hard job. There's a lot of kids lives on the line with the bus driver. So don't cause a distraction for the bus driver. That's a big help too."
You can also help bus drivers by being patient when driving through school zones and obeying the bus' stop sign. Driving through those signs puts children in and danger. It is illegal and can cost you a $750 fine.