Are school buses really safe?
Since school buses transport our most precious cargo, they are equipped with more safety equipment and must adhere to stricter standards than any other vehicle on the road. NHTSA has established several standards to maintain a high level of school bus safety. These standards include special passenger crash protection, better brakes, warning lights, special mirrors, swing-out stop arms, emergency exits, and rollover and fuel system protections. These standards focus on human, vehicle and environmental variables that affect school bus safety levels. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says, "School buses are the safest form of ground transportation." Every day, our nation's 440,000 public school buses transport more than 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities. The safety record is impressive: American students are nearly eight times safer riding in a school bus than with their own parents and guardians in cars. National Conference of State Legislatures School Bus Safety
Why don't most school buses have seat belts? (prior to 9-1-2018)
Seat belts were not required in school buses prior to 2018 because research by the Department of Transportation and others determined compartmentalization was a better solution. The interior of a school bus uses a design called ‘compartmentalization’. The purpose of this design is to minimize the impact and injury on students should a collision occur. Think of the bus as an egg carton which is designed to protect the contents (students). To achieve this, the seats are made with high backs with padding on the front and back made from impact absorbing material. These seats have strong anchorage and are spaced closely together to create compartments. The premise of this design, backed by vast amounts of continuing research, is that if a collision were to occur, these special compartments would absorb the impact dispersing it throughout the entire body as opposed to solely the head and neck. For this reason, the compartmentalization model is generally more favored than the seat belt model. It is for this reason the driver insists on their students sitting correctly. i.e. seat to seat – back to back.
Compartmentalization, once it has done its energy absorbing job, leaves the student free to escape the bus. Seat belts could leave students strapped in, upside down or unconscious in burning or flooding buses.
SEAT BELTS ON SCHOOL BUSES (From nhtsa)
Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968; and 49 States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the use of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping passengers safe in these vehicles. But school buses are different by design, including a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.
Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than passenger cars and light trucks do. Because of these differences, bus passengers experience much less crash force than those in passenger cars, light trucks and vans.
NHTSA decided the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses protect children without them needing to buckle up. Through compartmentalization, children are protected from crashes by strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.
Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.
New Texas Law and Seat Belts on Buses
On June 16, 2017 Governor Abbott signed into Law, Senate Bill 693 written by Silvia Garcia. The bill states that A bus operated by or contracted for use by a school district for the transportation of schoolchildren shall be equipped with a three-point seat belt for each passenger, including the operator.
This bill would only apply to 2018 school buses manufactured or ordered after September 1, 2017.
In her analysis of the bill, Garcia states “With no equipment restraining the students in their seats, and buses being prone to rollover accidents, children can be thrown around and even ejected from a bus.” This statement is clearly misleading as School Buses are designed and manufactured with rollover protection features. That’s not to say they can’t happen, it’s just not likely and school buses certainly are not prone to rollover accidents. The NHTSA states on their website “School buses are designed so that they’re highly visible and include safety features such as flashing red lights, cross-view mirrors and stop-sign arms. They also include protective seating, high crush standards and rollover protection features.”
What can be done to improve school bus safety?
Education and knowledge will help keep our children safe. The children will be safer by knowing and following all the bus safety rules. Parents educated in school Bus Safety will insist their children cooperate with the bus driver to insure a safe ride.
School bus riders are safest when children:
- Stay three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb when waiting for the bus; and when the school bus arrives, wait until the driver says to board.
- Quickly board the school bus, find a seat, sit facing the front, and do what the school bus driver and safety patrols say to do.
- Getting off the bus, cross in front at least five giant steps (10 feet) away and look left-right-left for traffic.
- Wait for the driver to signal it is safe to cross
The informed driving public will be aware and comply with the law by not passing a stopped school bus with red flashing lights.
Who is eligible to ride a school bus?
The legislature has historically provided funding assistance to school districts that provide student transportation. Basic funding is for home-to-school or school-to-home transportation provided to regular eligible students who live more than two miles from their campus of regular attendance and for special needs students who require special transportation to attend school.
What if I live within the two mile but their walkway is along a hazardous traffic area?
There is also a provision for limited funding of transportation provided to regular eligible students who live fewer than two miles from their campus if they live in an area designated as a hazardous traffic area by the school board.
Can my student ride a bus if we’re not eligible?
Students who do not meet the criteria to be declared bus eligible due to living within 2 miles of their assigned school cannot ride a school bus to and from school.
How many passengers does a bus hold?
A conventional bus holds 71 passengers. Sanger ISD levels of service allow 71 students on elementary routes. The maximum recommended capacity for secondary students is 55 passengers because of their larger size. Standees are not allowed on any Sanger ISD school buses.
Can my child ride home with a friend?
Only authorized personnel and eligible bus students assigned to a specific bus are permitted to ride that bus. Students WILL NOT be allowed to ride any bus other than their assigned bus. Students will be transported to/from designated stop and to/from designated school only. Designated stops are assigned by the Transportation Department based on the student’s recorded home address. Emergency transportation may be granted on a temporary basis in some cases. A supervisor at the Transportation Department must approve emergency transportation for students riding other buses. Notes from parents/guardian will not be accepted as authorization to ride a bus.
What if parents are divorced and have joint custody?
In order for Sanger ISD to provide transportation to both houses, both locations must be within the same school boundary and an approved stop on an approved route.
Can bus stops be added or a stop location changed?
There are many factors to taken into consideration when adding or moving bus stops. The District shall regulate the assignment of bus stops through the use of corner-stop-routing. Corner-stop-routing is defined as the assignment of bus stops to designated street corners in a neighborhood or residential area. The Sanger ISD Transportation Department is dedicated to providing safe and efficient transportation operation.
We have worked to establish stops located to best service all students in your area. Elementary students may be required to walk up to 1/4 of a mile to a bus stop. Secondary students may be required to walk up to 3/4 of a mile.
It is the parent or guardian responsibility to see that children get safely to and from authorized bus stops. All requests to add or change a bus stop will be reviewed keeping in mind the following criteria: Safety, Spacing, Accessibility, Visibility and Fiscal Responsibility.
Will the bus driver let my child off the bus if I'm not at the bus stop?
Drivers are instructed to drop students off only at their designated stops. The driver will not drop a Kindergarten or 1st grade student off unsupervised. If an older sibling can take responsibility for the Kindergarten or 1st grade student, we ask that a letter be sent to the Transportation Department at 797 N. Keaton Rd, Sanger, TX 76266. Students 2nd grade and up will be dropped off unsupervised unless the student expresses trepidation about being left alone.
Do I need to call and let the Transportation Department know when my child is sick or won't ride the bus?
If your child rides a special needs bus or he/she is the only student at the stop, YES. Our Department will remove a stop from a route if the student is a no show for three consecutive days. If your child's bus stop is a neighborhood stop where several students gather to ride the bus, NO.
Why did my child's bus stop coming to our house?
If a bus goes by a stop 3 days in a row and no students are at the stop, that stop is removed from the route unless parents call the Transportation Department with notification. To have the stop reinstated, simply call the Transportation Department and we will put the stop back on the route.
How do we know when a change has been made to a bus route?
Written notices are faxed to the school and sent home with students riding the bus in advance of any major change.
Can my child ride the bus to and from any another location besides home?
The Board, after determining eligibility for transportation services, shall allow a parent to designate a licensed child-care facility or the residence of a grandparent of the child instead of the child’s residence as the regular location for purposes of obtaining transportation under the system to and from the child’s school. Either designated location must be an approved stop on an approved route for that school. Education Code 34.007(b)(2)
What happens if a bus is late to school?
Drivers are instructed to make the first bus stop at the scheduled time. Additional stops can be delayed due to traffic, weather, road conditions, or sick students. A phone call is made to the campus if the bus arrives within 5 minutes of the final bell, and students are instructed to stop at the office if a pass is required. Late arrivals are tracked by the transportation staff in order to improve service.