School Bus Safety

10/22/2019

children walking from busEvery year, school buses transport more than 25 million children to and from school, according to the American School Bus Council.

Buses travel approximately 5.7 billion miles annually and students are 70 times more likely to arrive at school alive when they take the bus according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the past few years, states have focused on two policies: Enabling districts to use cameras to catch vehicles illegally passing a stopped school bus and requiring seat belts on school buses.

US map showing school bus safety laws.

School Bus Cameras

In 2017, more than 104,000 school bus drivers observed 77,972 vehicles illegally passing school buses in a single day. At that rate, more than 14 million violations would occur in a school year. From 2006-2015, 102 pedestrians under 18 were killed in school-transportation related crashes.

  • Most state laws require vehicles on both sides of a road without a median to stop and remain stopped while school bus stop arms and flashing red lights are deployed.
  • 21 states explicitly allow local governments or school districts to use cameras to capture images and issue tickets for drivers illegally passing stopped school buses.

School Bus Seat Belts

School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury. According to NHTSA, on average six student passengers die in school bus crashes each year, compared to approximately 2,000 children who are killed in motor vehicle crashes annually.

  • Buses are designed to protect passengers through “compartmentalization,” which includes closely spaced seats and high, energy-absorbing seat backs.
  • Eight states - Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas - have laws requiring the installation of seat belts on school buses. Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas’ laws, however, are subject to appropriations or approval or denial by local jurisdictions.  
  • In May of 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended states "Enact legislation to require that all new large school buses be equipped with passenger lap/shoulder belts putting three-point seat belts on all new buses." 

Sources:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and the National Conference of State Legislatures 2019.

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