Slain bus driver remembered at Love the Bus celebration

      In Pelham, Charles Poland, the school bus driver killed by Jimmy Lee Dykes in Dale County as he tried to protect his young passengers was remembered for his courage.

      "He was indeed a hero. He went well beyond what would be expected of anyone in a situation like that," said Joe Lightsey, Alabama's Director of Pupil Transportation.

      Lightsey believes any of the 15,000 bus drivers across the state would use the same quick thinking and action that Poland did. Lightsey says his department constantly is looking at ways to improve safety.

      Representatives from sixty school districts came to Pelham for the third annual Love the Bus celebration.

      The event honors the state's best school bus drivers, as voted on by students, parents and teachers.

      Lightsey made it clear saying Alabama school bus drivers have a great track record.

      "We've had no fatalities in the loading and unloading zone. We're very happy about that. But it's the drivers that make that happen," he said.

      As part of their certification, each driver must have a commercial drivers license. Recently, drivers must pass a physical. They receive specialized classroom and behind the wheel training, in driving, loading and unloading, student evacuation, student behavior and security and emergency management & medical procedures.

      More than 7,500 school buses are on the road every school day in Alabama, running 84 million miles every year. In 2012 there were 279 collisions statewide by bus drivers.