The following is a Parkway Rest Stop Public Service Message.
It’s back to school for the nation’s children. That means that this week and next week, some 450,000 yellow school buses will fire up their engines in order to take 23.5 million children to and from school every day. That totals to about 47,000,000 student trips daily. Add to that the estimated 5,000,000 trips for special activity trips each day, and you get 10 billion individual student rides annually.
That’s a lot of buses, a lot of kids, and a lot of trips. So, just how safe are school buses?
As it turns out, they are pretty safe. Approximately 11 children die each year in school bus accidents and approximately another 15 are killed annually boarding and exiting school buses. Even though 26 deaths per year is tragic, the number compares favorably to the 600 school age children who are killed each year during school hours and on school days in cars riding to and from school.
Approximately 8,500 to 12,000 children are injured in school bus accidents each year, but most of the injuries are considered to be minor, in the nature of bumps and bruises.
As for the safety of the buses themselves, currently it depends on the state in which you live. While Congress has passed a law mandating three point safety belts for newly manufactured school buses under 10,000 pounds, only two states (New Jersey and New York) currently have laws requiring two point safety belts on buses that are more than 10,000 pounds. Florida, Louisiana, and California passed laws requiring school buses in excess of 10,000 pounds be equipped with seat belts or some “other form of occupant protection,” and as of this year, Florida’s school buses will be equipped with two-point safety belts. Currently, the only state that not only requires the installation of seat belts in buses, but also requires that they be fastened, is New Jersey.
Read the details here.
New Jersey, I am happy to say, also has a formal safety inspection program for school buses. The buses are inspected for numerous safety-related features, including brakes, properly fastened seats, a functioning emergency exit, and proper seals around the rear door (to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the bus). Even the chassis design is inspected to ensure that the bus is not prone to rollover.
So, you might want to ask your local school board what its policies and practices are with respect to school bus safety. Do the buses have safety belts? If not, why not? And, if the buses are equipped with safety belts, are the children required to fasten them? If not why not?
The good news is that it appears that getting your kids to and from school in a school bus is pretty safe. Indeed your kids are safer in a school bus than they are in your own car. So, if given a choice, leave the driving to the school bus driver.