School buses are the safest form of highway transportation.
There are about 440,000 public school buses that travel approximately 5 billion miles each year. Each day school buses carry around 20 million students to school and school-related events. (Accident Facts 1996, National Safety Council)
In 1996, 10 school bus occupants were killed in crashes (2 drivers, 8 passengers).
In 1996, 23 pedestrians were killed in school bus-related crashes.
About two-thirds of school bus-related fatalities happen outside the bus.
For the past 11 years, an average of 35 school-age children died in school bus-related traffic crashes each year (9 school bus occupants and 26 pedestrians).
Recent studies in Florida and Illinois found almost 10,000 incidents (per day per state) of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses that were loading or unloading children. In Florida, 4.4 percent of the vehicles passed the school bus on the door side of the bus.
Why No Safety Belts?
On school buses, occupant protection is provided by "compartmentalization," not safety belts. Compartmentalization is the name for the protective envelope created by strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing high seat backs that protect occupants in the event of a crash.
School buses also have other features that contribute to the high level of safety they provide each occupant. Features such as emergency exits, roof structure, fuel systems, and body joint strength make the bus stronger, larger, heavier, and safer than most other vehicles on the road today.
Rules of School Bus Safety
- Be at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
- When the bus approaches, stand at least 3 giant steps (6 feet) away from the edge of the road, and line up away from the street.
- Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says that it is okay before stepping on the bus.
- When crossing the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or side of the road to a point at least 5 giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure the bus driver can see you, and you can see the driver.
- When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps do not get caught in the handrail or door.
- Never walk behind the bus.
- Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus any time you are walking beside the bus.
- If you drop something near or under the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up. The driver may not see you and begin to drive away.
- When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch for children traveling to school. They are unpredictable in their actions, and it is your responsibility to anticipate and prepare to react to what they may do.
- Drive slowly. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
- Watch for children playing and gathering near school bus stops.
- Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
- Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state.
- Learn the flashing light system that school bus drivers use to alert motorists about stopping:
- Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop and load or unload children. Motorists need to slow down and prepare to stop.
- Red flashing lights and extended stop arm mean the bus has stopped and children are boarding or exiting the bus. Motorists must come to a complete stop a safe distance from the bus and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the arm is retracted, and the bus begins moving before they start driving again.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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With "School Bus Safety Day" having taken place this past February, Indy racing veteran Lyn St. James teamed with Drive Safer America! to encourage students, parents and drivers to make an extra effort to sharpen their school bus safety skills.
"It is important during the school year to review the basics of school bus safety," says Ms. St. James. "By not obeying the rules of school bus safety, children and drivers sharing the road put themselves at risk of a potentially dangerous situation."
According to the national Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year for the past 11 years an average of 35 school-age children have died in school bus related traffic crashes. In addition, a number of states have found that almost 10,000 incidents occur each day when motorists illegally pass stopped school buses either loading or unloading children.
"Statistically, school busses are still the safest vehicles on the road-features like compartmentalized seats, warning lights, rigid sub-structure and anti-lock brakes help ensure the safety of those on board. But, it's also important for drivers who share the road with busses to share in the responsibility of protecting our precious children," says St. James.
Ms. St. James offers the following tips to students, motorists and parents to help ensure an added level of school bus safety:
Students should remember to:
Motorists should remember to:
- Arrive at the bus stop five minutes early. Children arriving late for the bus may be tempted to run across the street, causing them to possibly trip and fall in front of the moving bus.
- Always cross in front of the bus, never behind. Walk either on the sidewalk or on the side of the road. Make sure that you are at least five giant steps ahead of the bus before crossing. When crossing in front of the bus, you should be able to maintain eye contact with the driver.
- When exiting the bus, be careful of clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps. These items can get caught on the handrail or door of the bus and cause you to trip and fall when exiting the bus.
- Never try to pick up something you dropped near or under the bus. The bus driver may not see you and could begin to drive away.
Parents should remember to:
- Drive slowly in school zones. Children's actions are unpredictable. It's your responsibility as a driver to be prepared to brake suddenly if a child darts into the street. If your vehicle is equipped with four-wheel anti-lock brakes, learn to stomp on the pedal, stay on it firmly and steer where you want the vehicle to go.
- Be alert. Watch for children playing and standing near school bus stops. They may run into the street without looking for traffic.
- Learn and obey school bus warning lights and/or stop arm. Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop, red flashing lights or extended stop arm mean the bus is stopped and children are boarding or exiting the bus. It is unsafe and illegal to pass (from either direction) a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing or its stop arm extended.
- Prepare a route to the bus stop. This will help children learn the safest and most efficient way to reach the bus stop without getting lost and avoid the possibility of arriving late.
- Review proper behavior when riding on a school bus. Encourage your children to sit quietly in their seat and follow the bus driver's instructions.