When Hutto resident Daniel Griggs went to pick his son up from the bus stop one afternoon, no one was there waiting for him. Following an hour of waiting and a call to the district transportation department that confirmed the bus was running late, Griggs said he knew he wanted to create a program to help parents stay in the loop on their children's safety.

“Times have changed,” Griggs said. “Safety is a huge concern for children these days. It helps out a lot, being able to keep track of your child, on and off the school bus.”

Griggs, CEO of ATX The Brand, created the free app Bus Kids Safe in an effort to provide district parents with live updates on their children's bus route statuses, potential route delays and push notifications for when their child enters or exits their bus. Griggs said that following his own experience with his son’s delayed route home, he had the app’s concept designed within an hour and formally executed in a few months’ time.

Parents who download the app to their iPhone or Android can then register with their name, email address and school district information. From there, parents are able to view their child’s pickup and drop-off times and locations—as reported by district bus drivers—as well as registering them for multiple bus routes.

In traditional busing systems, Griggs said bus drivers will manually log when each student has entered and exited the bus. Under Bus Kids Safe, Griggs added this translates the same manual system over to a digital one that helps loop parents in.

Griggs’ motivation for the app’s specific design, he said, is to not put the obligation on the student—bus riders, he said, that could be as young as 5 years old. He said he wanted to be able to advocate for his son while not forcing sole responsibility on a child.

“He’s responsible for his age, but he’s still a 7-year-old,” Griggs said. “I need something better that’s not really in his control; there’s more adults in control.”

Griggs said the customizability of the app allows for any size school district to utilize its programming. Each district, Griggs said, maintains an Excel data spreadsheet with the children’s names, addresses and bus numbers along with the bus drivers. Regardless of district size, Griggs added the dataset can be transferred over to the app and notify both parents and the transportation department on the exact location of the bus through GPS tracking.

“You have tons of kids on a school bus, and you have one adult, and that adult is responsible for getting all of these children to school and from school—before school even starts and when school ends,” Griggs said. “It’s just bringing awareness to [safety] all around, and this is where we wanted to start and that’s the reason we came out with this app.”

Griggs said he has received feedback from representatives as close by as Corpus Christi ISD and as far away as Alaska regarding the app. His main focus, he added, is beginning with Hutto and expanding not only to the Austin metro region, but also throughout Texas.

Bus safety is more than just making sure children safely enter and exiting from their bus route, Griggs said. It also allows parents to ensure their child is safe en route to their destination, and bus drivers properly care for students on each trip, he added.

A central goal of Bus Kids Safe, Griggs said, is its Safe Bus 100 campaign—a goal to have 100 school districts and after-school programs committed to the app in 2020. Whether it is a school of six students or 6,000, Griggs said, each deserves to be protected.

“We don’t want to replace a driver with technology, but at the same time we want to hold them accountable while also helping them out, as well,” Griggs said.