While most pupil transportation laws and policies are at the state and local level, there are some sources of information from federal or national sources that districts will find useful in establishing school bus stops and routes.
“Identification and Evaluation of School Bus Route and Hazard Marking Systems”
This document was prepared by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) in response to a recommendation from the NTSB following the 1995 Fox River Grove school bus-train crash in which the substitute school bus driver was not aware of a hazardous situation along the school bus route. The document provides guidance to school districts to help them regularly document and monitor school bus route hazards.
“National School Bus Specifications and Procedures,” 2015
This document is the product of the 2015 meeting of the National Congress on School Transportation (NCST). As stated within the introduction to the “National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures” (NSTSP), its intended use is that "the specifications for school buses and procedures for operation are available for states to consider when establishing their standards, specifications, recommendations, and guidelines." The operations section and several appendices are relevant to school bus routing and actions at school bus stops.
NHTSA School Bus Driver In-Service Curriculum
This online, modular curriculum is targeted for the continuing education training of school bus drivers. Supervisors and routers may find certain modules relevant as they assess or create safer school bus stops and routes. This includes the modules entitled “Knowing your Route” and “Loading and Unloading.”
State law and administrative codes address statewide pupil transportation issues and vary widely on subject matter. States and school districts commonly have policies pertaining to requirements/eligibility for transportation including rules based on the distance a student’s home is from the school, and how far a stop can be located from a student’s home. Other common policies are affected by the many considerations described in the Planning for Safety section of this toolkit.
This information can be shared to the school district and public in different ways. Some school districts incorporate relevant policies into transportation guides that include an overview of all school transportation-related procedures. Other states or districts may include this type of information on their websites. Examples of different approaches to sharing policy information are provided below.
“Transportation Guide, Policies and Procedures” – Southeast Polk (IA) Community School District
This school district developed a detailed guide including both transportation policies and procedures. This guide is intended to convey important information to parents and students. Although it primarily includes general procedures, the guide also includes state laws pertaining to eligibility for transportation and route assignment and includes school board policies pertaining to student conduct and the use of video cameras in school transportation.
“NC Laws and Policies” – North Carolina School Bus Safety Website
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides a webpage with links to public school laws governing pupil transportation and policies of the NC State Board of Education Regarding Pupil Transportation.
“State and Local School Bus Regulations” – Sumner County (TN) Schools Website
This school district website provides a list of current “State School Bus Laws” relating to the operation of school buses as well as school district regulations and “School Bus Rules.”
State- and District-Level Guidelines and Criteria
State- and district-level resources are available on many school district websites. The amount of detail provided in each resource varies, ranging from a brief bulleted list of general considerations, to multi-page documents including specific criteria for school bus routes and/or stops. The examples provided in this section are intended as example formats to use as a starting point for developing your own guidelines; the contents of these guidelines are not necessarily included as recommendations themselves.
Examples of State-Level Guidelines
New York State Education Department (NYSED) – Parent Information
This webpage includes a wide range of considerations for school bus stops and considers a student’s path to the bus stop. It also provides considerations for stop review and responding to complaints.
New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) Administrative Handbook
The Routes Survey Guide is part of the Administrative Handbook provided by the Transportation Bureau of the NMPED. The document primarily discusses the school bus route survey in response to State Statute 22-16-4, 1978 NMSA on evaluating transportation routing and scheduling systems at least annually. Of particular relevance are the sections “Bus Route Evaluation,” “School Bus Stop Evaluation,” and “Loading and Unloading School Zone Evaluation.”
Examples of District-Level Guidelines
Phoenixville Area School District, Pennsylvania
This is an example of a school district providing guidelines for bus stop location information directly on the school district website. The webpage includes three brief sections: Establishment and Maintenance of School Bus Stop Locations, Procedure for Requesting Stop Location Change, and Run Evaluation Procedure:
School districts should coordinate with their state or local departments of transportation to determine the specific signing requirements for their localities and to request signs.
There are several instances that may necessitate the need for specific signing at or near school bus stops or along school bus routes. For example, the Bus Stop Sign section of the toolkit indicates that if visibility is such that approaching motorists cannot see the school bus stop, a School Bus Stop Ahead sign should be posted.
School Bus Stop Ahead (S3-1) sign
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is published by the Federal Highway Administration and defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices. Section 7B.13 of the MUTCD indicates that the School Bus Stop Ahead (S3-1) sign should be installed in advance of locations where a school bus, when stopped to pick up or discharge passengers, is not visible to road users for an adequate distance and there is no opportunity to relocate the school bus stop to provide an adequate sight distance.
This toolkit also addresses route turnarounds and indicates that road signs making motorists aware that there are school bus turnaround locations ahead can improve safety. Section 7B.14 of the MUTCD indicates that the “School Bus Turn Ahead” sign (S3-2) may be installed in advance of locations where a school bus turns around on a roadway at a location not visible to approaching road users and there is no opportunity to relocate the school bus turnaround.
School Bus Turn Ahead (S3-2) sign
In addition to School Bus Stop Ahead signs and School Bus Turn Ahead signs, the use and placement of speed limit signs should also be considered. Speed limit signs on roadways approaching a school bus stop waiting area or a school bus turnaround location can draw motorists’ attention to the required speed and can potentially help reduce speeding in the area.
Coordinate with Your State and/or Local Department of Transportation
School districts should contact their state or local departments of transportation to determine signing requirements and request signs. It is also important to consult with your state or local DOT to determine the appropriate placement of signs, to ensure they are visible to road users, and to determine if there are too many signs in a particular location (which could lead to motorist distraction or go unnoticed by motorists).
The most common checklists and forms are (1) those used by a school district in evaluating a new or existing bus stop, (2) those used by parents and others to request a change in bus stop location, and (3) those used to assess school bus routes and drivers.
Some state- or district- level documents also include school bus route criteria checklists or evaluation forms. While such forms do not provide explicit guidelines for improving route and stop safety, the checklists themselves can provide insight into considerations for safe bus stops based on the questions and criteria listed on the forms.
Safety Evaluations (e.g., assessments of school bus routes/stops/drivers)
Evaluating conditions at bus stops must be performed while recognizing that students will be picked up and dropped off at different times and under different conditions. In the Tennessee form referenced below, school bus stop evaluation criteria are separated by “AM Stop” and “PM Stop” to account for the possibility that students may be required to cross the road at one time but not necessarily the other, depending on the routing of the bus.
School Bus Stop Evaluation Criteria (form) – Tennessee Department of Education
The New Hampshire Department of Education and New Hampshire Department of Safety established a “School Bus Stop Evaluation Criteria” form designed to aid local school districts in evaluating the safety of bus stops. The form includes a checklist, a place for a sketch of the bus stop, and a place for the evaluator to provide comments. A sample of questions from the evaluation form is shown below.
|School Bus Stop Evaluation Criteria||Yes||No||N/A|
|Is there sufficient room at the stop for students to de-board the bus then walk at least 15 feet away from the bus before it departs the stop?|
|Is there sufficient room at the stop away from the roadway for students to safety wait for the school bus?|
|Does the physical space that the stop occupies provide sufficient room for the number of students using the stop?|
|If the stop is located near a retention pond or similar body of water, is there a physical barrier between the stop and the water, i.e., a guardrail or fence?|
Bus Stop Change Assessment and Request Forms
There are times when a parent, guardian, caregiver, or other concerned community member may wish to have a stop evaluated for a perceived safety concern. Districts should define the process parents and others should take to have a school bus stop evaluated. School district procedures vary considerably on how this is done — some require that a form be submitted while others may only ask for a phone call. Parents and other community members should be able to easily find information on how to initiate the process, as well as locate any required forms.
Including procedures for requesting stop evaluation or modification can help improve the flow of information and understanding between stakeholders. This practice can also help ensure more consistent assessment of stops and application of policies related to them. While the information requested via a request form may be specific to the school district, it is important to draw a distinction in the reason for the request. Reasons for requests include the following:
- New student, or previously not transported student, requests assignment to a bus stop.
- Currently transported student requests transportation from a different base location (daycare, family member’s house, etc.).
- Currently transported student requests that the bus stop be relocated for safety reasons.
Each of these requests will be handled differently by the school district. Some sample forms are provided below.
Bus Stop Assessment (form) – Flagler Schools, Florida
This form is intended for use by school district staff in assessing a bus stop location. It provides a detailed list of questions and conditions to be documented by the evaluator while determining the safety of the bus stop location.
Bus Stop Evaluation Request (parent form) – Lake Orion Community Schools (MI)
This form is intended for use by parents requesting a review of the currently assigned bus stop. It provides a place for the concern to be listed but also presents a list of guidelines used to establish bus stop locations.
The following sources may be used to identify safety data and crash statistics related to school bus stop locations and routes.
National Household Travel Survey
The NHTS, conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, was most recently performed in 2017. It is the only source of national data enabling the analysis of trends in personal and household travel, including daily non-commercial travel by all modes, characteristics of the people traveling as well as those of their households, and vehicle characteristics.
School-Transportation-Related Crashes – Traffic Safety Facts 2012 to 2021 Data
This fact sheet, developed by NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, contains summary information on fatal motor vehicle crashes and fatalities based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
Fatality Analysis Reporting System
FARS is a nationwide census providing NHTSA, Congress, and the American public yearly data regarding fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes:
Pedestrian Injuries and Deaths Among School Bus Riders Media Scan Data
This data, provided by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), summarizes a media scan of student pedestrian injuries and deaths sustained traveling to school bus stops from January 2018 to March 2020. Although this provides information on the characteristics of injuries and deaths for this group of student pedestrians, it does not necessarily capture every crash:
This product is referred to as a toolkit because it’s designed to be a user-friendly resource that practitioners can easily apply when making school bus stop and route decisions. This toolkit can be used to evaluate existing stops, respond to parent requests for a stop review, or when starting from scratch in creating new stops. For more information about this toolkit and its purpose, please see the Toolkit Overview section of this toolkit.
The main audience for this toolkit is any transportation safety professional (including those who work in routing). School administrators and others may have an interest in the tool from a safety evaluation perspective.
Responsibility for the creation of school bus stops and development of school bus routes varies by school district. Typically, staff with this responsibility are part of the transportation department, the school building, or a contracted school transportation provider. For more information about the people involved in school bus decision-making, see the Decision-Making for School Transportation Routes and Stops section of the toolkit.
The Safe System approach is a holistic approach that recognizes that humans make mistakes and anticipates these mistakes in the design and planning processes to reduce the severity of these mistakes. For more information about Safe System approach and how it is used in this toolkit, see the Safe System Approach section of this toolkit.
Language Clarifications FAQs
- Bus stop: The bus stop location plus the bus stop waiting area.
- Bus stop location: The published designation of the bus stop, which is typically a street address or intersection of streets provided to students and the bus driver.
- Bus stop waiting area: The area from the student’s perspective. This is the specific area where students wait for the bus to take them to school. This area may or may not be on the same side of the street where the bus actually stops. At a corner stop, this is the specific spot where students gather.
- Bus route: The road path that the school bus travels to get from stop to stop and on to school – and from school returning students to their designated stops.
- Bus stop access path: This how the student travels from home (or wherever he or she starts out) to get to the bus stop waiting area and back again after school.
For more information, see the Planning for Safety section.
- Policy refers to any official laws, administrative code, rules, and regulations that must be followed.
- Guidelines include industry best practices, transportation department processes, and other practices that, while not codified, should be followed consistently to provide a safe transportation environment for students. This toolkit also includes guidance, but while the content in this toolkit is based on experts, users still need to exercise their own judgment when making school bus stop and route decisions.
Content Related FAQs
School bus routing software, like other kinds of information systems, is designed to take input from users and to provide helpful outputs. Part of the required input for a computer routing system involves policy, including where buses are allowed to stop and where students are allowed to walk, wait, or cross the street when boarding or exiting the bus. These policies must be incorporated into the software, either followed while using the software or applied when taking software results and putting them into practice. Additionally, software cannot replace human judgement. Sometimes, practitioners simply have information that software may not be designed to incorporate, which is why examining software outputs before making final decisions is important.
Interactive Tool FAQs
You may need the Microsoft Excel application on your computer to open and utilize the full functionality of the tool.
Once you have submitted your questions and received your output sheet, go to “File” and then “Print”. On the next window select “Print to PDF” in the “Printer” drop-down menu and click “Print.” A “Save Print Output As” window will open and allow you to select the location on your computer where you’d like to save the output file. Select the location where you’d like to save the file and click “Save.”
Do you have a question that is not included in the FAQs?
If you have a question pertaining to this toolkit that is not covered by the FAQs, please submit it to NHTSA.Safetycountermeasures@dot.gov.