Director, Health & Transportation Services
Parents in Community Action Inc.
700 Humboldt Avenue, North
Minneapolis, MN 55411
Dear Mr. Nelson:
Thank you for your letter asking for confirmation that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends, but does not require, school buses to be yellow.
Your understanding is correct. NHTSA's recommendation that school buses be painted yellow is found in Highway Safety Program Guideline 17, "Pupil Transportation Safety" (copy enclosed). Guideline 17 consists of recommendations for State pupil transportation safety programs. Guideline 17 will affect the operation of school buses in your area only if it has been adopted by your State or local officials.
We wish to note, however, that there are safety reasons behind Guideline 17's recommendation for the uniform school bus color. Motorists associate the yellow color with school buses, and quickly recognize that a yellow bus is transporting school children. The yellow color is a signal to motorists to be especially alert around the vehicles, particularly when the buses are loading and unloading children. For these reasons, NHTSA believes all school buses should be yellow.
We also want to highlight for your information that Guideline 17 is different from NHTSA's school bus safety standards, which by Federal law apply to all new school buses, regardless of State action. The school bus safety standards require new school buses to have safety systems such as energy-absorbing seats, school bus lamps, stop arms, and improved emergency exits and rearview mirrors. These requirements apply to all new school buses, no matter what the States have done to adopt them. The safety record of school buses has improved in the years since buses began to meet the school bus safety standards.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have further questions, please contact Ms. Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel