The Safest Mode of Transportation To And From School

Every parent wants their child to remain safe from injury when coming or going to school. But, I find it interesting, that when I question parents about public school bus transportation very few are aware that riding the school bus is far safer than riding in the family car or walking.

For twenty four million students across the United States, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. Eric Bolton, spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in an interview with WebMD, pointed out that, “The safety record of school transportation is just about untouched by any other mode.”.

Large-scale studies show overwhelmingly that taking a school bus to school is far safer than riding in the family car. Every year, school buses travel more than 4 billion miles and carry over 24 million students. Death rates for children riding school buses are 0.2 deaths per 100 million miles traveled and you can multiply that number by 8 times for family cars.

In another look at the numbers, reports show that from 1994-2004, a total of 71 passengers died in school bus crashes. During this same time period, on a yearly average, traffic accidents killed 33,000 people traveling in cars and light trucks. Compare 71 deaths with 363,000 deaths over the same period. I’m mindful that although we are talking about statistical data, when we hear of one child being killed in a bus accident we understand the impact on families and communities from such a tragedy, especially if the death could have been prevented.

From an environmental point of view, the group Traffic Marketing Safety provides an interesting infograph, using facts provided by the American School Bus Council that estimates that every year school buses keep an estimated 17.5 million vehicle off the roads surrounding schools each morning. Fewer cars mean fewer accidents and less pollution. This adds up to a nationwide savings of 2.3 billion gallons of fuel, 6.0 billion dollars and 44.6 billion pounds of CO2 pollution.

Younger Children Are At Risk

Younger grade school children, ages 5-7 are in the highest range of danger when getting on or off of a school bus. Sadly, statistics show that slightly more than half of those children killed in accidents around school buses fit into this 5-7 age category.

Every parent knows that children in this age group, especially boys, tend to act more impulsively, hurrying to be first to get on or off the bus, and are less likely to pay attention to the dangers posed by traffic. Another danger factor is that kids in this age group are shorter, which means they can’t see over cars, bushes, or other obstacles and drivers have difficulty seeing them.

Before children begin riding a school bus for the first time, or on regular occasions throughout the school year, it is essential that parents and their children continue to focus on traffic safety rules. Parents should regularly work with their kids about sidewalk and street safety. I highly recommend the Child Pedestrian Safety Curriculum from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Regular walks through the neighborhood offer a great opportunity point out the many risks that they will face.

Learn and Teach Your Children The Rules of Safety

The Rules of Safety Outside The Bus

A great source of information and a guide that all parents should study comes from the web site of the Chicago Public Schools. An excellent choice for parents to find information is available through Texas A&M University, and the search engine, has an excellent video to help you get started. And this short but informative video from is a great place to get started.

Safety At the Bus Stop

1. Walk safely to the bus stop and stay well away from the street.

2. Arrive at the bus stop 10 minutes before bus time.

3. When waiting, keep yourself and your belongings out of the road and away from traffic.

4. Don’t run between parked cars and buses.

5 Never move towards the bus until it has stopped and the driver opens the door.

Teach Your Children About the Danger Zone Around a Stopped School Bus

6. Stay 10 feet away from the front or back end of the bus so that the driver can see you.

7. Wait for the driver to signal you to board the bus.

8. Before stepping off the curb to board the bus, look left and right to make sure your path to the bus is clear, especially if the bus is stopped away from the curb.

9. Check that drawstrings, backpack straps, scarves and loose clothing cannot get caught on the bus handrail, door or the seats.

10.Use the handrail when entering the bus.

11. Do not push or shove other students.

Safety Rules While Riding Inside the School Bus

12. Find a seat and sit down.

13. It is important to listen to the bus driver in case there are any special instructions for your bus ride.

14. Do not leave your seat until the bus arrives at your destination and comes to a complete stop.

15. Help keep the aisles clear. Backpacks or books can trip someone or block the way to the emergency exit.


A study by the National Institute of Health found that drivers with prior citations for safety violations, pose a greater likelihood of hitting a child pedestrian. In all jurisdictions the driver of a motor vehicle is required to exercise a greater degree of care when they know or should know that small children are at play in the immediate area. This is especially true when one is driving in the vicinity of a school and residential districts where children are known to play.

Drivers should always follow the speed limit and slow down in school zones and near bus stops. Put aside distractions such as cellphones and other electronic devices and stay alert while looking for kids who may be trying to get on or off the school bus. The school bus is that large yellow vehicle with the flashing lights. If you come upon a school bus slow down and stop when it stops. Never pass a school bus unless waived ahead by the bus driver, and if you are waived ahead driver slowly, very slowly until you have passed safely.

Other Important Considerations For Parents

Driver Training and School Bus Maintenance

One of the main issues in the school bus safety discussion is driver training and vehicle maintenance. Parents should, either as individuals, or through their local PTO/PTA organization monitor accidents and breakdown information. If you find that the school bus fleet is beset with breakdowns, especially with break problems, it might be time to address the issue with your local school board, your city councilman, or the Mayor of your town to remedy the problem.

If the fleet has a accidents identified as “driver error”, maybe it’s time to address the driver training program. To evaluate the quality of your school bus driver training you might want to visit the School Bus Safety Company a national leader in this field. It’s been my experience that these are often overlooked areas by cash-strapped school districts. Funding, or lack thereof, should never be an excuse for putting our children’s lives in danger.

Seat Belts In School Buses

It seems like a no-brainer but when it comes to public policy brains usually take a backseat. Starting in 2014 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made seatbelt use mandatory for all large commercial buses. That sounds reasonable but NHTSA exempts school buses. According to NFTSA records, in an average year, twenty (21) one people are killed and 8000 more are injured in large bus crashes each year. Experts who study this area have made it clear that almost half of those fatalities could have been avoided by the use of seatbelts.

Why not seat belts in school buses? The argument, which is on the losing edge of the issue, is that school buses are built better and are safer. Those who suggest that they are not necessary, often point to the fact that the buses themselves are very heavy and strong. The seat layout in school buses, often referred to as “compartmentalized”, means they have high seat backs and a compact design. I agree that the school buses are built heavier and substantially stronger, but I don’t follow the argument, that because the seats have give to them they are safer without seat belts.

States such as California, have already adopted laws requiring school buses to have seat belts and this appears to be a trend across the nation. So, what is your school district’s position on the issue of seat belts in school buses? You might want to reach out to your state representative or Senator and give them a little nudge.

I would like to conclude with a point I make whenever child safety is an issue. Children cannot be responsible for their own safety they must have parental guidance. It’s a parent’s job to teach everyday safety to their children. There are plenty of resources available to help in this task and I hope the links I have provided in this article will help you help your child. Until next time, take it easy, avoid distractions and look out for others.

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