Although they are big and yellow, have large blinking lights and an attached stop sign, seemingly safety-equipped school buses still pose a serious threat to pedestrians that cross their paths.
Recently released data from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study reveals that pedestrians are at a much greater risk of being injured or killed by a school bus than those inside the bus, accounting for 20 percent of all fatalities involving school buses between 2000 and 2009.
There is also a discrepancy between pedestrian accidents involving school age children and those over 19 years of age. Of the 238 pedestrians killed by school buses between 2000 and 2009, 108 were over 19, almost double the amount of the next most greatly affected age group, five-to-seven year olds. Those pedestrians at lowest risk are children between zero and five years of age. The NHTSA’s study found that most fatalities involving school-age children occurred in the afternoon, a time when students are getting off the bus after a day of school.
The NHTSA has identified school bus safety as an area that needs additional regulation, and offers a wide variety of safety statistics and information on school bus safety on its website. The use of seatbelts in school buses is one of the NHTSA’s priorities in reducing injuries from bus accidents.
Also involved in improving school bus safety is the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT). NAPT advocates for additional safety restraint research, but also pushes for legislation requiring more training for bus drivers and tougher penalties for passenger car drivers who illegally pass a bus while its stop sign is out.
Improved safety measures should focus not only making school buses safer, but also on making pedestrians safer. For example, better bus driver training to help drivers look out for pedestrians is tangible step that could be taken to decrease pedestrian fatalities.