School Bus Safety

School buses are one of the safest forms of transporting children to school. Every day, about 500,000 school buses transport more than 25 million students to and from school. However, each year, nationally, about 19 school aged children are killed in school transportation-related traffic crashes. On average, 6 are passengers on the bus and 13 are pedestrians.

Seat Belts and School Buses

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968. Forty-nine States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the wearing of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping occupants safe in theses vehicles, however school buses are different by design and use a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than do passenger cars and light trucks. Because of these differences, the crash forces experienced by occupants of buses are much less than that experienced by occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or vans. NHTSA decided that the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called "compartmentalization." This requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection such that children are protected without the need to buckle-up. Through compartmentalization, occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.

School bus crash data show that compartmentalization has been effective at protecting school bus passengers. NHTSA's 2002 Report to Congress found that the addition of lap belts did not improve occupant protection for the severe frontal impacts that were studied for that report.

Tips for Drivers

  • Watch for children at bus stops and for children walking to and from bus stops.
  • Yellow flashing lights on a school bus mean that a bus is preparing to stop. Do not try to beat the bus! Begin slowing and prepare to stop your vehicle.
  • Red flashing lights indicate that a bus has stopped to load or unload children. Be very aware and pay close attention. Stop your car and wait for the lights to stop flashing before you move your vehicle. Passing a loading or unloading school bus is reckless driving!

At the Bus Stop

  • Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • Remain orderly at the bus stop and pay attention to traffic. This is no place to play.
  • Obey the School Safety Patrol.
  • Stand at least 5 giant steps (10 feet) away from the edge of the road.

When Entering the Bus

  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it's okay before stepping onto the bus.
  • Be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps or dangling objects do not get caught in the handrail or door when exiting the bus.
  • If you must cross the road to enter the bus, walk in front of the bus; never walk behind the bus.
  • Wait for a signal from the driver.

When Exiting the Bus

  • Walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead.
  • Be sure the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.
  • Stop at the edge of the bus and look left-right before crossing.
  • Tell the bus driver if you drop something beside the bus. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.
  • Be alert to all traffic.

On the Bus

  • Take your seat immediately.
  • Always sit fully in the seat and face forward.
  • Obey the School Safety Patrol.
  • DO NOT distract the bus driver.
  • Never stand on a moving bus.
  • Keep aisles clear at all times.
  • Obey the driver.
  • Speak in low voices.
  • Never stick anything out the window...arms, legs, head, book bags, etc.

NOTE: Oncoming vehicles, separated by a physical barrier in the road, do not have to stop.

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