2.3 Child School Bus Training
Overall Effectiveness Concerns: There are no evaluation studies showing reductions in crashes or injuries. These outcomes are difficult to demonstrate because minimal, basic training is very widespread and the choice to adopt a stronger curriculum would be confounded with any number of other factors.
The purpose of school bus training for children is to teach them how to safely approach, board, disembark, and walk away from school buses. According to NHTSA, 100 school-aged pedestrians 18 and younger died in school-transportation-related crashes from 2009 to 2018 (NCSA, 2020b). These fatalities represent 8.3% of all school-transportation-related fatalities, most of which (70%) involved occupants of non-school-bus vehicles. Of the 100 school-aged pedestrian fatalities, 47% were struck by school buses or vehicles functioning as school buses, and 52% by other vehicles (passenger cars, etc.). In 2018 eleven pedestrians of all ages were struck and killed by school buses.
Basic training for children who ride school buses should be part of the normal school routine, if it is not already. Training should include behavior on the bus as well as getting on or off the bus at bus stops or school, obeying bus drivers and bus monitors, emergency evacuation procedures, and any topics unique to the school. Additionally, education about safety behaviors of parents in school zones and around school buses should be reinforced as part of “Back to School” night, in school bulletins, or other creative means. The Safe Routes to School website has many resources (www.saferoutesinfo.org/) and the SRTS program guide includes messages for drivers and tips for neighbors living in school walk zones to help improve safety for school-aged pedestrians (guide.saferoutesinfo.org/education/index.cfm). NHTSA also has a refresher training module for school bus drivers (see www.nhtsa.gov/school-buses/school-bus-driver-service-safety-series).
Jurisdictions should use a common curriculum for school bus safety training. Targeted behaviors include boarding and exiting from the bus and crossing the street to and from the bus. The NHTSA Child Pedestrian Safety Curriculum, previously discussed, includes a module on safety around school buses.
Use: Most school districts have some form of school bus training in place, though the content and quality of those programs varies. Schools should be eager to provide this training, both for child safety and for legal liability.
Effectiveness: Burke et al. (1996) found that stenciled pavement markings, together with in-school training, led to improved behavior in waiting for, and boarding, the school bus compared to training alone for students in grades 4 to 6. Reductions in crashes and injuries are difficult to demonstrate because minimal basic training is very widespread and the choice to adopt a stronger curriculum would be confounded with other factors.
Costs: The primary cost for the SHSOs would be in adapting material for their States and producing, stocking, and distributing the material. Much of this could be done electronically, through school websites, newsletters, press releases, and other regular communications channels.
Time to implement: Basic material is available from many organizations including NTHSA, and schools could adopt curricula of their choice quickly.