The American School Bus Council (ASBC), an alliance of private and public transportation suppliers, school bus manufacturers, and state officials who accept the responsibility for transporting students, is encouraging parents nationwide to choose a form of transportation for their children to and from school that is the safest — the school bus.
The familiar yellow school bus is the largest system of mass transportation in the US and every school day transports roughly 25 million young people to school and home again after the school day ends. This number is larger than the amount of people who travel by trains, airplanes, and subways each day combined. Even with ridership this large, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that school buses are the safest method for getting kids to and from school. Children are 70 times more likely to arrive at school safely on the school bus than if they had traveled to school driving themselves or riding with friends.
"The statistics are startling," said Diana Hollander, President of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. "We all want to protect children as they go back to school this school year, and one of the ways to do that is to use the school bus as the primary form of school transportation. Riding the school bus literally may save your child's life."
School buses meet more of the federal motor vehicle safety standards — 42 to be exact — than any other car, truck, or bus on the road, according to the NHTSA. Also, several new technologies available today are making school buses even safer, such as video cameras on the inside and outside, stop arm cameras, vehicle and student tracking, lane drifting warnings, and collision lessening systems, among others. Currently, many school buses in the US have seat belts in the form of two-point lap belts or three-point lap/shoulder belts.
Hollander adds that even without seat belts, school buses remain the safest transportation method for schoolchildren. Another safety tool on school buses is what Hollander calls "a unique form of âautomatic' passenger protection called "compartmentalization."
School buses were designed to protect kids by having high seat backs, closely-spaced seats, and well-padded and energy-absorbing seating. This innovative design has meant that the safety record of large school buses is strong.
But even the durability and safeness of school buses would not completely sum up why children are safer when riding the big, yellow bus. The bus is only as safe as the professional men and women who drive them.
All drivers must obtain a Class B or C Commercial Driver's Licence (CDL) with a P (passenger) and S (school bus) endorsement. Drivers are randomly tested for the presence of alcohol and drugs, usually have their driving record checked, and are administered the same review for criminal history as teachers and other employees who have contact with students.
"School bus drivers today must undergo extensive training to drive safely, as well as to monitor and protect the students onboard," said Keith Henry, President of the National Association for Pupil Transportation.
In order to serve as a school bus driver, most applicants are required to successfully complete a training course, along with instruction in the classroom and behind the wheel.
School buses are environmentally-safe, and not only because each bus replaces 36 passenger cars that would, but for the buses, be on the road taking and picking up school children. Additionally, school buses use alternative fuels like propane, compressed natural gas, and electric or hybrid power.
Todd Monteferrario, President of the National School Transportation Association, said parents should remember that the safest and smartest choice is to put their children on the big yellow bus when they can.