School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States. Every year, approximately 450,000 public school buses transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities. Yet, on average, every year, six school-age children die in school bus crashes as passengers while more than 42,000 people are killed in traffic crashes on U.S. roads. NHTSA strives to make sure there are no fatalities in school buses.
School Bus Safety
School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury.
Seat Belts in Buses
Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968. Forty-nine States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the wearing of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping occupants safe in theses vehicles, however school buses are different by design and use a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.
Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than do passenger cars and light trucks. Because of these differences, the crash forces experienced by occupants of buses are much less than that experienced by occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or vans. NHTSA decided that the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection such that children are protected without the need to buckle-up. Through compartmentalization, occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.
Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.
Safety starts at the bus stop.
Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Visit the bus stop with your child so you can show your child where to wait for the bus: at least three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb. Remind your child that the bus stop is not a place to run or play.
Get on and off safely.
When the school bus arrives, your child should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver says that it’s okay before approaching the bus door. Your child should use the handrails to avoid falling.
Use caution around the bus.
Your child should never walk behind the school bus. If your child must cross the street in front of the bus, tell your child to walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street, to a place at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus before crossing. Your child should make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing, to make sure the driver can see your child. If your child ever drops something, like a ball or book, near the school bus, the safest thing is for your child to tell the bus driver right away. Your child should not try to pick the item up because the driver might not be able to see your child.