I’ve been writing articles about the unmatched safety record of the yellow school bus for more than a dozen years now.
I’ve repeated the affirmations on school buses being the safest way for children to get to and from school — safer than walking, biking, driving with a teenager or even riding in a car with a parent.
But my personal support for the school bus has essentially been “on paper.” Why? Because my kids haven’t been riding the bus to school. Since we live about a mile from our neighborhood school, my wife has been dropping them off in her car. Or, on occasion, I’ve ridden bikes with them to school.
But now that has changed. My 7-year-old has moved to a different school that is across town. In January, he began riding the school bus home every day.
Before his transportation service started, I realized this: It’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Or, more precisely, it’s time to prove my trust in the yellow bus.
The good and the bad
As I mentioned, in this job I’ve become well-versed in the safety statistics on pupil transportation.
For example, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have shown that only 1% of student fatalities during normal school travel hours are among students traveling by school bus. By contrast, 58% of the fatalities are students traveling by a teen driver, and 23% are with an adult driver. That’s especially significant considering that about 25 million public students in the U.S. ride the school bus daily.
While I’ve absorbed supporting statistics like these for more than 12 years, my work has also exposed me to the dark corners of school transportation. As I search the web for school bus news every day, many of the stories I find are disturbing: a sleeping child left stranded on the bus, a school bus driver intoxicated on the job, a yellow bus bursting into flames.
Incidents like these are very rare in the context of the nearly 500,000 school buses that travel the nation’s roads every day, but, unfortunately, they get a disproportionate amount of attention in the media. Having been encountering these alarming stories on a regular basis, thoughts about what could go wrong with my son on the bus can’t help but creep into my mind.
Now it’s personal
When our son was about to start riding the school bus, my wife considered following the bus in her car for his first ride. She ended up not doing that, but the idea of it illustrated how parents are taking a big step when they put their kids on the bus for the first time.
You can tell a parent about the statistics showing the safety superiority of school buses in general. But to that parent, only one bus really matters: the bus that his or her child is riding. The parent needs to know that that bus is in safe condition, that its driver is committed to the children’s safety.
Fortunately for my wife and me, our son’s school bus driver immediately showed us her professionalism and her care for our son. She made him — and us — feel at ease. She validated my trust in the bus.