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It’s an oft-quoted statistic in the pupil transportation industry that children are 70 times safer in a school bus than in a car.

But a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) specialist on Thursday told members of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) that this nugget’s not entirely accurate.

A better way to put it, Kristin Rosenthal said, is that the number of fatalities of school age children traveling to and from school (per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) is 70 times higher in cars than in school buses.

“It’s all around the vehicle miles traveled,” she said. “Over the years, it’s been taken out of context. We should transition out and use the stat we know is correct.”

Rosenthal also brought attendees of the association's virtual annual conference up to speed about NHTSA projects related to pupil transportation safety.

The NHTSA is waiting on clearance from the White House Office of Management and Budget for approval to study illegal passing of school buses. This project will include a national survey of motorists to gauge awareness and attitudes about laws related to passing buses.

Also in the works is a field study to examine the effectiveness of automated school bus camera enforcement systems combined with high-visibility enforcement. This study is expected to involve two U.S. communities that have yet to be chosen. It will resemble “Click It or Ticket” campaigns meant to educate motorists, Rosenthal said.

“Our end goal is not to ticket, ticket, ticket,” she said. “It’s an educational campaign so people can connect the dots to know why they need to stop for a stopped school bus.”

The agency also has several new projects in the pipeline, including:

  • An interactive online toolkit of “promising practices for developing safe school bus routes and stops in urban, rural, suburban, and underserved communities
  • Pupil transportation educational material aimed at elementary age students about school bus safety
  • A pupil transportation program management course through the Transportation Safety Institute, with a pilot course planned for Feb. 23, 2022
  • A grant-funded project to innovate methods for providing children with safe passage when crossing roadways to board school buses
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