Facilities (Learning Spaces)


School Bus Safe


What if everyone road a school bus when traveling to and from school — or work, shopping, sightseeing or going anywhere for that matter. Of course, such a sea change is impossible, but if it could and did happen, it would produce a dramatic decline in traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities.

School buses may, in fact, be the safest form of transportation on U.S. highways.

Think about these statistics collected by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • From 2004 to 2013, there were 340,039 fatal vehicle crashes on the road. Of those, 1,214 involved a school transportation vehicle.
  • Over the same period, 1,344 people died in crashes involving a school transportation vehicle. Students and other traveling inside a school vehicle accounted for just eight percent of those fatalities.
  • 71 percent of the people who died were traveling in the other vehicles involved in the crashes.

“School bus transportation is incredibly safe compared to other ways kids get to school,” says Charlie Hood, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS).

In addition to safety, school buses also provide learning benefits, environmental benefits and community benefits.

School Bus Safe


Driven to be Safe. The yellow school bus ranks as one of the safest, most trusted symbols on the nation’s landscape. That trust is well deserved. A school bus is a safe, environmentally friendly way for students to get to and from school, every school day of the year.

Safe Drivers and Safe Buses

School bus safety begins with recruiting and training safe drivers and ends with designing and manufacturing safe buses. The school transportation industry has become skilled at both tasks.

“Driver recruitment and retention is one of the main issues school districts are dealing with today,” says Kathleen Furneaux, executive director of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute.

It is a problem the cycles in lockstep with the economy, continues Furneaux. In a healthy, expanding economy, such as the one we have today, drivers are hard to find. People with the abilities and talents important to driving a school bus are typically employed in a growing economy.

The reverse is true in a recessionary economy. There are plenty of drivers to be found.

“Pair the recruitment difficulties with the fact that driver compensation probably isn’t what it should be — the industry pays wages ranging from $12 to $25 per hour,” Furneaux says. “Higher wage areas, of course, have fewer problems filling drivers’ seats.”

Once drivers are recruited, they undergo stringent training. Commercial vehicle drivers must earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which requires much more training than the regular driver’s license the rest of us carry. School bus drivers must earn a CDL with what is called a school bus endorsement, which requires training beyond the requirements of a regular CDL. (See related story, Page 37)

Then comes safe school bus design and construction. “Since 1997, all new school buses have been required to have a system of passenger crash protection,” says Hood.

In a school bus, this system is called compartmentalization, which mandates special designs in the interior, continues Hood. For example, the seats have high backs and thick padding designed to protect a child thrown forward by an impact.

“School bus design includes major structure features focused on safety,” adds Furneaux. “For example, school buses have break-away bodies. In a severe collision, the passenger compartment, the box that sits on the frame, detaches. That’s important because if the frame of the bus crumples in an accident an attached passenger compartment would crumple as well.

Statistics prove the effectiveness of school bus safety features. About 26 million children ride school buses every day of the school year, and crashes cause only four or five fatalities.

Industry observers often point to an accident that occurred in Huntsville, Ala., in Nov. 2006, to substantiate how safe buses are. A small car bumped a school bus while trying to pass on an Interstate overpass. The impact nudged the bus to the right and the right front tire ran up the protective sidewall and over the edge, plummeting nose first 40 feet.

Forty students were on the bus. Four were killed. Twenty-three students were injured but recovered. Thirteen students and the driver escaped without injury. Experts say that only the special design and construction of a school bus could enable 36 of 40 individuals to survive such a devastating crash.

Safe School Bus


Beyond Safety: Learning Benefits

Industry observers contend that school buses also help students learn.

The American School Bus Council (ASBC) website devotes a full page to the learning benefits provided by school buses.

According to the website, when a student boards a bus, he or she will end up in school and not the local video game arcade. According to the FBI, this theory is credible. FBI statistics say that 20 percent of truants attribute their absence from school to having missed the bus.

Without the bus, some students would end up walking to school. While walking a reasonable distance can invigorate, walking too far will make students tired and unable to perform at school. A school bus ride ensures that students will get to school ready and able to learn.

Environmental Benefits

Mass transit systems — trains and subways as well as buses — take smaller vehicles off the roads.

The ASBC website asserts that the school bus industry is the largest form of mass transit in the United States.


Yes. Every day, 480,000 school buses carry 25 million students — more than half of all pre-K through 12 students in the country — to and from school.

The ASBC site goes on to say that every school bus takes approximately 36 cars off the road. In 2010, ASBC calculated that 480,000 school buses handled student transportation that took more than 17 million cars off the road, saved 2.3 billion gallons of fuel, which would have cost $6 billion.

Fuel savings at that level also eliminates substantial amounts of damaging emissions, thereby helping to reduce environmental pollution.

The yellow school bus ranks as one of the safest, most trusted symbols on the nation’s landscape. That trust is well deserved. A school bus is a safe, environmentally friendly way for students to get to and from school, every school day of the year.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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