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School Bus Crashworthiness Research

School Bus Crashworthiness Research - October 2002

Presentation given at New York's 17th Annual Motor Carrier Safety Conference

School Bus Crashworthiness Research Report - April 2002


The record is impressive: American students are nearly eight times safer riding in a school bus than with their own parents and guardians in cars. The fatality rate for school buses is only 0.2 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) compared to 1.5 fatalities per 100 million VMT for cars.This impressive safety record is a result of the Department of Transportation's requirements for compartmentalization on large school buses, and lap belts plus compartmentalization on small school buses. Moreover, the protective abilities of today's school buses have been reaffirmed by two years of research.Yet, no matter how safe our children are on school buses, it is vitally important to constantly reassess existing safety measures. Therefore, Congress requested that DOT investigate the safety value of installing safety belts on our nation's school buses. An analysis of test data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded that lap belts appear to have little, if any, benefit in reducing serious-to-fatal injuries in severe frontal crashes. On the contrary, lap belts could increase the incidence of serious neck injuries and possibly abdominal injury among young passengers in severe frontal crashes. Any increased risks associated with the use of lap belts in small school buses are more than offset by preventing ejections. The use of the combination lap/shoulder belts could provide some benefit, unless misused. Lap/shoulder belts can be misused and NHTSA's testing showed that serious neck injury and perhaps abdominal injury could result when lap/shoulder belts are misused.Other considerations, such as increased capital costs, reduced seating capacities, and other unintended consequences associated with lap/shoulder belts could result in more children seeking alternative means of traveling to and from school. Given that school buses are the safest way to and from school, even the smallest reduction in the number of bus riders could result in more children being killed or injured when using alternative forms of transportation.Over the past 11 years, school buses have annually averaged about 26,000 crashes resulting in 10 deaths - 25 percent were drivers; 75 percent were passengers. Frontal crashes account for about two passenger deaths each year. Meanwhile, NHTSA is continuing its research program, focusing on side impact protection, working with university-based researchers.

Selected Video Files form School Bus Research Program

Full Scale Files (All files are avi video files):

Sled Tests of Restraint Systems

Simulations of Large School Bus Safety Restraints 17th ESV 1998   
Large School Bus Safety Restraint Evaluation 17th ESV 1998   
Large School Bus Safety Restraint Evaluation-Phase II 18th ESV 2003