School Bus Safety

Friday, August 17, 2012

Parents rely on school buses to get their children safely to and from school.  However, safety depends on not only the care the driver takes in transporting the students but also the precautions the students take themselves.  It’s important for children to understand the following rules for safe school bus travel.

Getting to and boarding the bus:

  • Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early; if you do miss the bus, never run to try to catch it.

  • Stay on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, then walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic.

  • Cross the street only at a designated crosswalk or corner. Look to the left, then the right, then once more to the left before crossing. (If you live in a rural community without street corners, teach your child where and how to cross).

  • Take five steps back from the road as the school bus approaches the stop.  Do not approach the bus until it has come to a complete stop.

Riding on the bus:

  • On clothing and backpacks, avoid loose strings, keychains, lanyards and other dangling items that have the potential to get caught in the doors or on the handrails of the bus.

    Enter the bus single file, using the handrail along the stairs to prevent tripping as you board.

  • Take a seat quickly, stash your belongings under the seat, always face forward and be well-behaved.  Do not distract the bus driver.

  • Do not place belongings in the aisle.

  • Never put your hands, arms or head outside the window.

  • Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before standing to exit.

  • Use the handrail as you get off the bus.

Leaving the bus:

  • After exiting the bus, stay at least three metres away from the vehicle and stay clear of the bus danger zones, especially behind the bus, where it is difficult for the driver to see you.

  • If you must cross the street, always cross in front of the bus, and make sure that the driver sees you first (establish eye contact with him or her).

  • If you drop something near or under the school bus, ask the driver for permission before you try to retrieve it so that he/she can watch you.

For additional safety, physical devices and driver warning systems have been installed on many buses to protect children from falling under buses and being struck by their tires.  Physical devices include safety crossing gates, which form a barrier in front of the bus to prevent children from crossing the street out of view of the driver.  Warning systems include motion detectors, video cameras and other sensors.  Some buses are also equipped with electronic reminder systems, which cue drivers to check for sleeping students at the end of each route so that every child is accounted for. Additionally, flashing lights and extended stop arms warn motorists when students are boarding or disembarking.

Why no seat belts? At a time when legislation requires seat belt usage by every driver and passenger of motor vehicles, many parents wonder why seat belts are not part of school bus safety.  In short, school buses are constructed differently from passenger vehicles, with safety features that have proven to be more effective than lap and shoulder restraints might be; in fact, research suggests that the use of seat belts in school buses could actually increase the likelihood of injuries.

Transport Canada has set approximately 40 safety standards for school bus design and construction, including specialized brake systems, lighting, emergency exits, escape hatches and specially designed seating.  Students are protected through compartmentalization, a design in which seats are high-backed, stuffed with energy-absorbing material, placed closely together and strongly anchored. 

These safety features, combined with the fact that school buses are bigger, heavier and higher than other vehicles, make school buses one of the safest methods of transportation.  According to the Canada Safety Council, travelling by school bus is 16 times safer than travelling in a family car.


Source: Canada Safety Council, First Student Canada, Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Transport Canada