- Since then school buses have changed a lot on the inside, but not so much on the outside. But that's actually not a problem.
- Because school buses are the safest way to get to school. 70 times safer than a car according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator : Take a look at this school bus from 1939. 80 years later, it looks almost exactly the same. Some buses don't even have seat belts. Meanwhile, cars have undergone massive redesigns in that same time period. How can a vehicle designed to safely transport kids seem so out of date?
In the US, school buses transport 26 million kids every day. Before buses, kids rode to school in horse-drawn "school wagons." By the 1930s, roads had expanded and more types of automobiles were available, which meant school buses were more common. But early school buses were a hodgepodge of different styles and types of vehicles. Not great for safety or cost-effectiveness. Just look at these New York Times headlines from the '30s. There were no universal standards for all buses to follow. But in 1939, all that started to change.
Frank Cyr was a professor of rural education at Columbia University. He recognized the role school buses played in rural education, finding that, "from 1926 to 1938 the number of school buses increased 132%." Cyr led a conference of transportation officials, educators, and school-bus manufacturers.
The group came up with the "Minimum standards for school buses," a set of 44 rules all buses should adhere to. This included details like length, aisle width, and even the iconic yellow color. The group chose yellow because it was the most quickly identified on the road and the black lettering stood out even in dim light. A lot of what you see in modern buses was first decided at that conference. But it's been 80 years. Something must have changed since then, right?
It might not look like it, but there have been a lot of changes inside the bus, including rollover protection, safer fuel systems, and taller seats. Although a few notable additions do stand out, like wheelchair accessibility, emergency-exit windows, and the stop-sign arm. So the changes have been incremental, as opposed to a huge redesign. But that's actually not a problem. Because school buses are the safest way to get to school. 70 times safer than a car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
From 2008 to 2017, 71 passengers were killed in school-bus crashes. Out of 26 million daily riders. In fact, the number of deaths each year is less than 1% of nationwide traffic deaths. So, what makes school buses so safe? Well, you might have noticed that school buses are big and heavy, over seven times heavier than a car when filled. That means they can absorb a crash better and passengers feel less force in a crash. Their solid frame also helps prevent damage in a rollover.
But it's not just their size. The color, flashing lights, and stop signal all help keep school buses safe. In fact, school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road. And because they're all the same, they're easily recognized, and nearby drivers know to be extra cautious. A drastic design change, like the color, could modernize the look. But it might not get the attention of drivers as quickly.
Oh, and if you're wondering about the seat belts, big school buses don't need them. They use something called "crash protection through compartmentalization" to protect riders. Those unassuming seats are actually designed to absorb the energy of a crash and cushion the impact. Although eight states currently require seat belts on buses. But the smaller buses that are closer to the size of a van do need seat belts.
So, the school bus you rode in as a kid is probably similar to the one your parents rode in. But changes might be coming. Remember the conference that Frank Cyr led? It's now called the National Congress on School Transportation. It meets about every five years to vote on changes to school-bus standards. This year's topics could include things like electric buses and tracking apps.
But whether it's to save money, reduce pollution, or modernize the look, all changes have to fulfill the same basic requirement Frank Cyr had in 1939. Does this make school buses safer?