Seeing that most schools use yellow school buses for home to school transportation, field trips, and sporting events, this is an important question. Thankfully, the answer is quite positive according to Pete Japiske of the Ohio Department of Education.
“During 2010, there were over 15,000 school buses on the road every day, traveling 1 million miles per day. For the total year, we traveled more than 200 million miles. There were 1,579 school buses involved in accidents during 2010. While this number seems high by itself, it is very low when compared to the total number of vehicle crashes in the state, which was 299,467. The school bus accident rate per mile – using the National Safety Council reporting standard of crashes per 100,000 miles is 0.000007. This is an extremely low rate. … Of these crashes, less than half list the bus driver at fault.”
“All of the data compiled and reported by federal agencies consistently reports that the school bus is the safest mode of travel for students. The National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Transportation and other authorities agree that school buses are the safest form of transportation for getting children to and from school. Nationwide, some 480,000 school buses transport 26 million children – more than half of America’s school children – each day, and complete 10 billion passenger trips and 4.3 billion miles per year, almost always without a serious incident. Riding in a school bus is much safer than using any other form of transportation – including personal vehicles and railroad and airline travel. According to the Transportation Research Board, part of the National Academy of Sciences, a child is 13 times safer in a school bus than in other modes of travel. Children driving to school or riding with other teenage drivers are 44 times more likely to be fatally injured than in a school bus. (“The Relative Risks of School Travel,” 2002.)”
But how is it that school bus transportation is so safe? The Department of Education has put in place a rigorous set of rules that have helped hinder accidents as much as possible. Before you can drive a school bus, you must pass a medical examination, take a week of training with a regional instructor, be trained by an on-board instructor, pass a pre-trip inspection of the school bus, and pass a school bus driving test. All of this must take place before a driver is allowed to drive students in a school bus for any school in Ohio. But the training doesn’t stop there. Every year, schools are required to hold four hours of in-service for each of their drivers. And after six years, each driver must go through a re-certification process. That includes a week of classwork with a regional trainer, more training with a certified on-board instructor, a successful pre-trip check of the school bus, and a driving test. Only after successfully completing all of these is a school bus driver allowed to drive students in an Ohio school bus.
But let’s not forget the school bus itself. Every school bus in Ohio goes through two inspections annually. During the summer, the Ohio State Highway Patrol schedules the annual inspection to make sure each bus is road worthy. They inspect everything from light bulbs and seats to wheel bearings and exhaust pipes. If something is not working properly, the school bus is taken out of commission until the repairs are completed. Later in the year, the State Highway Patrol performs a surprise inspection. If the bus is not up to standards at that point, it is labeled and taken out of commission until the repairs are completed. Nothing is more important than safety.
During the years I have served as Transportation Supervisor at Mentor Christian School, our school buses have transported many students to field trips, sporting events, and competitions. As a Christian, I believe that the Lord has used our wonderful selection of bus drivers, mechanics, School Board members, State Highway Patrol inspectors, and ODE policy makers to ensure that our students have been kept as safe as possible. And for that I am very grateful.