School Bus Safety


School Bus Safety Rules

For some 22 million students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. Unfortunately, each year many children are injured and several are killed in school bus incidents.

School bus related crashes killed 164 persons and injured an estimated 18,000 persons nationwide in 1999, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and General Estimates System (GES).

Over the past six years, about 70% of the deaths in fatal school bus related crashes were occupants of vehicles other than the school bus and 20% were pedestrians. About 4% were school bus passengers and 2% were school bus drivers. Of the pedestrians killed in school bus related crashes over this period, approximately 77% were struck by the school bus. Of the people injured in school bus related crashes from 1994 through 1999, about 44% were school bus passengers, 9% were school bus drivers, and another 43% were occupants of other vehicles.

Although drivers of all vehicles are required to stop for a school bus when it is stopped to load or unload passengers, children should not rely on them to do so. The National Safety Council encourages parents to teach their children these rules for getting on and off the school bus.

Rules for getting on and off the school bus

Getting on the school bus

                     When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness. Do not stray onto streets, alleys or private property.

                     Line up away from the street or road as the school bus approaches.

                     Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before stepping onto the roadway.

                     Use the hand rail when stepping onto the bus.

Behavior on the bus

                     When on the bus, find a seat and sit down. Loud talking or other noise can distract the bus driver and is not allowed.

                     Never put head, arms or hands out of the window.

                     Keep aisles clear -- books or bags are tripping hazards and can block the way in an emergency.

                     Before you reach your stop, get ready to leave by getting your books and belongings together.

                     At your stop, wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat. Then, walk to the front door and exit, using the hand rail.

Getting off the school bus

                     If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least ten feet ahead of the bus along the side of the road, until you can turn around and see the driver.

                     Make sure that the driver can see you.

                     Wait for a signal from the driver before beginning to cross.

                     When the driver signals, walk across the road, keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.

                     Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver has signaled that it is safe for you to begin walking.

                     Stay away from the bus' rear wheels at all times.

Correct way to cross the street

                     Children should always stop at the curb or the edge of the road and look left, then right, and then left again before crossing.

                     They should continue looking in this manner until they are safely across.

                     If students' vision is blocked by a parked car or other obstacle, they should move out to where drivers can see them and they can see other vehicles -- then stop, and look left-right-left again.



School Bus Safety: Infants, Toddlers, and Pre-schoolers

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of infants, toddlers and pre-school-aged children who are being transported in school buses. Various federal, state and local government programs have been established to provide young children and their families with services designed to support the child's growth and development. Additionally, in some situations and locations, school bus drivers are allowed to bring their own infants, toddlers and pre-school-aged children on the bus with them.

The exact number of children under the age of five riding in school buses in unknown. However, this population includes children served in several programs for children from birth through age five. These programs include the Early Intervention Programs for Infants and Toddlers With Disabilities, the Pre-schools Grant Program, the Early Education Program for Children with Disabilities, Head Start, Bureau of Indian Affairs Programs and Teenage Parent programs, as well as child care centers.

Because current school bus designs and federal safety regulations were formulated based on child passengers in grades K through 12, infants, toddlers and pre-school-aged children may be more vulnerable in a crash or sudden driving maneuver. Nevertheless, for many of these children, the school bus is the primary vehicle that provides access to the programs and services that are designed to meet individual needs of children and families.

Transportation of infants, toddlers and pre-school-aged children should be established with the mutual cooperation of parents, transportation providers and service providers. Pre-school-aged children who ride school buses include children with and without disabilities. Accordingly, transportation providers need to be knowledgeable and to develop skills to provide adequately for the safety of young children while being transported in school buses. Infants, toddlers and pre-school-aged children with special physical, cognitive or behavioral needs present new challenges and responsibilities for transportation providers.

These children may require a great deal of supervision during the time they are in the school bus. Some issues that must be addressed to assure safe transportation in the school bus include:

         physical handling

         communication with young children

         behavioral management

         child safety seats, restraint systems, safety vests

         wheelchairs and occupant securement systems

         special equipment management

         medically fragile and complex conditions


         length of ride

         personnel training

         parental responsibilities

Because there are large numbers of children under the age of five who are transported on school buses, it is essential to recommend guidelines for child safety seats, occupant passenger restraints and securement systems.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has promulgated "Preschool Transportation Guidelines" that establish guidelines for transporting pre-school-aged children. (NHTSA defines "pre-school" as children under 50 pounds.) The guidelines outline the following principles for car seat use:

         Each child should be transported in a suitable, approved Child Safety Restraint System (CSRS) certified to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213. CSRSs include forward-facing, rear-facing, and booster child safety seats - car seats, and safety vests.

School bus drivers and attendants should be trained in emergency procedures, which includes:

         A written evacuation plan and evacuation drills with the children they transport.

Parents must have clear communication with schools and care providers about transportation policies and procedures. To reinforce these same safety procedures in their personal family travel, parents should insist on proper restraint system and CSRS use.

(Although the information and recommendations contained in this publication have been compiled from sources considered reliable, other or additional safety measures might be required under particular circumstances. This fact sheet was written by the School Transportation Section, Motor Transportation Division, National Safety Council, October 2002.)