New York school bus drivers hold safety competition at Rockland Lake
BY ERIN MAHER
One hundred and three road-ready bus drivers competed this past Saturday, May 18, at the 42nd Annual New York State School Bus Safety Competition. The competition, held at Rockland Lake State Park, was sponsored by the New York School Bus Contractors Association.
Drivers from all across New York state, from areas as far as Rochester and Albany, competed for the New York State title. The categories included competition for three types of vehicles including; the type C large conventional school bus, the type D transit style bus (also known as a flat nose bus), and the type A van (which includes miniature buses).
The competition involved two parts. The first was a written exam. The drivers then took to the road for the field competition. The field competition involved ten different obstacles, including “the serpentine,” which was a course that had drivers weaving in and out of barrels.
Mary Myslim, from Dutchess County and veteran bus driver of twenty three years, personally finds the most difficult obstacle the reverse alley, where drivers must reverse within a certain width and stop at a very specific point without knocking into tennis balls marking the boundaries. Myslim, who drives for Chappequa Transportation in Weschester County, is a past champion at the competition and has won over thirty trophies. Her safety driving successes have led her all across the country for various competitions including Nevada and Missouri. Myslim began competing at the NYSSBSC in 2005 in a type A van, and has since switched to the type C large conventional bus. Although this was her first year not competing, Myslim was there to cheer on friends, and shared that her favorite part of driving in the competition was, “the adrenaline of driving through the obstacle course, and doing the best job possible.”
Family and friends cheered from the sidelines, while an emcee introduced each driver, what they enjoyed about their job, and a fun fact about the competitor. All the buses at the competition were donated by the various bus companies that were competing. Judges also volunteered their services and are either current or former drivers. This is the second year that the competition has been held at Rockland State Park. Previously it was held at Lake Sebago at Harriman State Park until Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Awards were handed out to the top five drivers in each category, as well as a rookie award. Home-turf hero Raymond DiFiore of Clarkstown School District came in first for the type D flat bus division. The winners from this competition move onto compete in either the New York Association of Pupil Transportation Safety Competition in Albany on July 13, or the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) International School Bus Safety Competition in Tulsa, OK on July 20 & 21.
Although not everyone received a trophy, everyone did leave a winner. Each company donated one or two items for a raffle, so at the end of the day, no one left empty handed. Seth Corwin, co-safety chairman of Chappequa, New York, also reflected on the true winners of the day: the children and their safety, “It’s for the children. Everyone’s excited to learn, to get better. It’s a great event.”