AIKEN - The state is requiring its school bus drivers to be capable of rescuing pupils from buses in emergencies.
One of the state's new mandates is for drivers to be able to drag a 125-pound object 30 feet in 30 seconds, said Sandra Joyner, Aiken County's special-education transportation supervisor.
The fitness testing, which went into effect this month, ensures that a driver can pull an incapacitated child to safety, Ms. Joyner said Thursday.
Some of the special-education pupils are 20 years old and possibly heavier than 125 pounds, she said, but the state based its testing on an average weight.
The testing supplements a video that drivers were already required to view each year about properly assisting children off buses in emergencies.
All state bus drivers must pass the weight-pulling standard and five other fitness requirements that test speed and agility.
The tests will be given in conjunction with behind-the-wheel training for new drivers, said Donald Tudor, the director of the office of transportation for the state Department of Education.
Current drivers will have until July 31 to pass the tests, said Carol Verenes, Aiken County Public School's transportation manager.
"Basically it depends on when their date comes up for recertification as to whether we'll get them this school year," Ms. Verenes said.
Aiken County operates 191 buses and has about 250 certified drivers.
Ms. Joyner said she has passed her test, and the driver who will serve as the staff's trainer will be trained in Lexington County in December.
"I don't think any of my drivers will have a problem," Ms. Joyner said. "It's just keeping everybody on their toes."
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