Approximately 400,000 yellow school buses serve American elementary
and high school students. In all, about 22.5 million school-age
children ride yellow school buses to and from school. After-school
activities provide an estimated 5 million additional daily student
rides. The American Public Transit Association also estimates that
public transportation provides an additional 900 million student
rides per year. This makes school transportation the single largest
system of public transportation in the United States, resulting
in over 94.2 billion total pupil-passenger miles per year.
Most of us can recall at least one incident in
which a student was harmed from some avoidable mishap that occurred
while riding or walking to the school bus. According to the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 41 school-age
children are killed in school bus-related traffic accidents each
year. Numerous injuries also have occurred when riding, boarding
or unloading from a school bus.
What influences bus safety?
While many regard school bus transportation as one of the safest
forms of transportation, accidents do happen. Children are typically
not under the supervision of teachers or parents when riding the
school bus. Such unstructured situations often lead to misbehavior
and episodes of poor judgment on the part of some students. Disruptive
behavior may distract the driver or may encourage a student to take
unnecessary risks, such as waving an arm out a school bus window.
School bus drivers often report that they are
overwhelmed by what they see as students' lack of respect and failure
to follow school bus rules and regulations. Typically, a large school
bus transports 54 students, a number of students far in excess of
what a certified teacher would be permitted to supervise without
assistance. Yet, school bus drivers are confronted with this task
on a daily basis across the country.
Of students who have died in school bus-related
incidents, almost two thirds were killed by school buses, 6% by
vehicles functioning as school buses and 30% by other vehicles involved
in crashes with school buses. Five- and six-year-olds represented
more than half of all school-aged pedestrians killed by school buses
over the past ten years. Of all school-aged children killed in school
bus accidents, nearly half died enroute home from school. "Inattention"
and "failure to yield" were factors most often reported
by police for school bus drivers striking school-age pedestrians.
The federal Government mandates seat belts in
all small buses (under 10,000 lb.), and some states now mandate
seat belts on the larger school busses as well. Ironically, studies
dating back to 1969 have repeatedly concluded that compartmentalization
provides better protection in accidents than two-point seat belts
on school buses. To date, there have been no studies conducted on
three-point seat belts and safety.
School Bus Safety: Prevention
Prevention is the best solution to the issue of school-bus safety.
Children and their parents, as well as educators and community members,
need to be aware of the risks involved with children and school
buses. Motorists also need to obey all state regulations regarding
driving in the vicinity of school buses and their designated drop-off
A good way to raise the level of awareness in
the community is through the implementation of a school bus safety
program. "Operation School Bus Safety" is one such program
available from the National PTA1 and Navistar International, designed
to help communities improve bus safety records and protect children.
"Be Cool. Follow the Rules" is another program sponsored
by PTA and the International Truck and Engine Corporation, promoting
bus safety through TV public service announcements, magazine ads,
School Bus Safety Week (sponsored by the National
Association for Pupil Transportation) is held each year during the
third week of October. This is a good time to highlight school bus
safety programs. In general, children should understand that riding
on the bus is a privilege, that the bus is an extension of school,
and they are expected to behave as well as they would in their classroom.
Parents and educators wishing to initiate a prevention program should
contact their local PTA for information on "Operation
School Bus Safety" and "Be
Cool, Follow the Rules." Educators and parents can also
help by reminding students to follow the simple safety rules outlined
School Bus Safety Rules
On the way to the bus:
· Be alert, arrive
at your stop at least five minutes early.
· Always obey
all traffic lights and signals.
· Plan to walk
with schoolmates whenever possible, facing the traffic.
· When crossing
streets, always cross at crosswalks and intersections.
· Look both ways
before crossing the street.
At the bus stop:
· Stand back from the curb.
· Don't push or shove when entering or
exiting and always use the steps and hand rail.
· Always obey the bus driver and wait
for the driver's signal before crossing.
· Always cross at least 10 feet in front
of the school bus.
· Never, never crawl under the bus.
When riding the bus:
· Take your seat quietly and quickly,
remain seated when the bus is moving and don't get out of your
seat when the bus is moving.
· Keep your feet on the floor and never
ever extend your hands, arms, head or any object out the window
of a bus.
· Talk in a quiet voice, be courteous
to the driver and schoolmates, and try not to distract the driver