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School Bus Safety

School bus safety involves the cooperation of a large number of people: the bus driver; each rider; pedestrians and bikers who move in and around the bus, and other drivers. The bus itself is another crucial factor. This article details some of the elements that contribute to school bus safety.

The School Bus Driver

The school bus driver needs to handle weather and traffic conditions, student behavior management, pedestrian movement, including school bus occupants before and after they are passengers, and driving a more or less complicated route, all at the same time. School bus drivers receive special training for each vehicle they drive, with particular attention to adjusting and using mirrors and turning. The school bus drier is expected to be knowledgeable about particular hazards that may be peculiar to his or her route, such as areas with limited lines of sight.

School Children

Part of the responsibility for school bus safety rests with the children who ride the bus. They need to be attentive pedestrians as they approach and leave the bus, following the guidelines for where and when to walk. On the bus, they need to follow the guidelines for sitting properly, being considerate of their fellow passengers, and not behaving in a way that distracts the driver. They must also follow the bus driver’s guidance at all times, but especially in the case of any kind of emergency.

Other Drivers

Drivers need to follow their state law with respect to stopping when a school bus is loading or unloading passengers. The stop arm signals these times. Drivers can watch for the flashing red warning lights that begin before the arm is extended, and which signal that traffic traveling the same direction as the bus, and in many cases, in the opposing direction as well, must stop. Check your state motor vehicle laws for precise details.

Illegal passing of school buses is a must-to-avoid for drivers who share the road with school transportation vehicles. It is forbidden to pass on the right side of a bus, because this is where children enter and exit.


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) statistics center, an average of 5 occupants of school buses or other vehicles used as school transportation died each year from 1996 to 2006 as a result of crashes. More people die when the impact is to the front of the school bus.

Seat Belts

According to NHTSA, school bus design is especially intended to account for the fact that school buses do not have seatbelts. The strong seats with their padded backs are meant to keep children safe during a crash, but students are only protected if they are sitting fully within the seats, rather than assuming some other posture, or turning so that they are partially in the aisle.

An October, 2009 publication from NHSTA, School Bus Seat Belts and Carryover Effects in Elementary School Children, states both that school buses have been found to be one of the safest types of transportation in the USA. It also states that children do not, contrary to some claims, “carry over” the experience of being “seatbelt-free” on school buses to their experience in automobiles. That is, children comply with automobile safety rules that are different than school bus safety rules in that auto travel requires wearing a seatbelt and school bus travel doesn’t, without problem. Wearing of seatbelts in automobiles depends, instead, on strong parental messages and consistent action, as well as the behavior of other car occupants, and the laws of the state the child lives in.

National School Bus Safety Week

National School Bus Safety Week is celebrated the third full week of each October to remind everyone of the importance of safe school transportation for children. Features include the National School Bus Safety Poster Contest for students in grades K - 8 and the National School Bus Safety Speech Contest for students in grades 9 - 12. Materials are available from the National Association for Pupil Transportation website: