WARNER ROBINS — Houston County school bus driver Daniel Perry drove his bus slowly, trying to make sure the back wheels aligned between two rows of tennis balls with just inches to spare.
Perry was the first of about 15 Houston County school bus drivers who participated Wednesday in the system’s Bus Driver Road-E-O, held in the parking lot of Second Baptist Church.
At the annual event, bus drivers compete on an obstacle course in events such as parallel parking, stopping at a railroad crossing and driving through a path with narrowing clearance, said Frank Scott, director of transportation for Houston County schools.
The state competition will be held in June at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
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The competition helps improve driving skills, confidence and safety among the participants, who often take extra time to practice before the event, Scott said.
Nancy Bernard, a supervisor and driver trainer, put the course together in the church’s parking lot following state regulations. The process took hours, she said, “measuring, chalking, taping to the very inch.”
While some participants either drove on top of the tennis balls or pushed them out of place, Perry’s wheels moved cleanly through the gap. For him, the most challenging part of the course was a serpentine path, during which Perry hit three of the barriers, he said.
Overall though, he felt confident about his participation in the obstacle course this year.
“I felt great about it today. I was relaxed — no pressure,” he said of his third time competing in the event.
“You have to take time to go through it. If you go too fast, you can’t straighten out the mistakes,” he said.
In the end, events such as the Road-E-O are about keeping the bus drivers motivated, Scott said.
“Driving school buses is a stressful job. We make sure we have a good time doing this,” Scott said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.