The American School Bus Council (ASBC) is encouraging parents to choose the yellow bus for their children’s school transportation this year.
ASBC — a coalition of public and private transportation providers, school bus manufacturers, and state directors of pupil transportation — issued a press release citing the safety record and other benefits of school bus transportation.
The council noted that school buses make up the largest system of mass transportation in the country, shuttling nearly 25 million students to and from school daily — more passengers than planes, trains, and subways combined.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has affirmed that school buses are the safest form of transportation to and from school. In its message to parents, ASBC cited NHTSA’s assertion that students are 70 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the school bus versus driving themselves or riding with friends.
"The statistics are startling," said Diana Hollander, president of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. "We all want to protect children as they go back to school this school year, and one of the ways to do that is to use the school bus as the primary form of school transportation. Riding the school bus literally may save your child's life."
School buses meet more federal motor vehicle safety standards than any other vehicle on the road — 42 altogether — according to NHTSA. ASBC also noted that there are a number of emerging technologies on the market today to make school buses even safer, including interior video cameras, stop-arm cameras, student and vehicle tracking technology, lane departure warnings, and collision mitigation systems, among others. Some school buses across the country also have seat belts, either two-point lap belts or, more recently, three-point lap-shoulder belts.
"We are seeing a growing number of school systems and their private sector service providers incorporate lap-shoulder belts on their school buses," Hollander said. "But even without seat belts, school buses are the safest form of transportation to school because of a unique form of 'automatic' passenger protection called compartmentalization — meaning high-backed, closely spaced, well-padded, energy-absorbing seating specifically designed to protect children."
ASBC also pointed to the school bus drivers as an integral safety component. All school bus drivers must have a Class B or C commercial driver's license with P (passenger) and S (school bus) endorsements. They are subject to random testing for drug or alcohol misuse, and they commonly undergo a driving record check and a criminal history check.
Most school bus drivers must complete a pre-service training course, including classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training.
"School bus drivers today must undergo extensive training to drive safely, as well as to monitor and protect the students on board," said Keith Henry, president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation.
In its message to parents, ASBC also highlighted the environmental benefits of the school bus. According to the council, every school bus replaces up to 36 passenger cars that would otherwise be on the road each morning and afternoon transporting students. Also, ASBC noted, school buses are increasingly being powered by alternative fuels.
"School buses are not just a safe, environmentally friendly, and convenient way to get to school, but a vital instrument in keeping our children in the classroom and improving our education system," said Todd Monteferrario, president of the National School Transportation Association. "For many students, the school bus is the only way that they can get to and from school safely. We encourage parents to remember that the big yellow bus is the safest and smartest choice when available."