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Aug 11, 2015, 11:25 AM

Shouldering the Safety of Your Child – School Bus Safety Success

Author Elizabeth Stone once said, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” That sentiment makes the first day of school a difficult milestone for parents. It’s sending that child off to spread their wings, to figure out exactly what dreams they may have and who they are.

For parents, the fear of the unknown adds an extra layer of anxiety. What troubles will their child have scholastically? Will they fit in with other children? How can parents keep children safe? Those of us in the student transportation industry know these fears well and understand that at the end of the day, the safety and security of our students comes before all else.

First Student seeks to create the best start and finish to the school day for students and their families. One way we do this is to provide communities with the safest student transportation. The school bus industry is the largest and safest transportation system in the nation and the First Student team of drivers holds a safety record twice as safe as the industry average. That’s, in part, because our management teams rigorously train our employees and provide them with the best possible equipment.

The safest vehicles available today are school buses. They carry approximately 25 million schoolchildren, nearly half of all students, to school and back every day. Many think that school buses, with their hefty size, are less safe than in the confines of a parent’s vehicle. That is not true. In fact, the large size and visible nature of the school bus is what makes it the safest means of school transportation on the road today.

The Federal government and safety agencies require school buses to meet more safety standards than any other type of motor vehicle. This means your students are safer riding a school bus than in any other vehicle, including the vehicles driven by parents. And the statistics back up that data; according to the American School Bus Council, students are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school safely if they take the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends.

Over the years, partnerships between school bus manufacturers and transportation companies developed the bus we have today. They sit higher off the road, compared to other vehicles, to protect passengers from impact should a collision occur. And the body and roof of a school bus are constructed with reinforced steel to offer additional protection to riders.

It’s not only the construction that makes buses safe, but also the color and way we operate them. The bright yellow color was chosen to distinguish the bus from other vehicles on the road. Drivers could clearly see the yellow color in the dark and foggy mornings. Keeping passengers safe also means travelling at low speeds, especially through neighborhood streets.

A common misconception about school buses is that because there are no seatbelts, like regular motor vehicles, the bus is far less safe. But seat “compartmentalization” keeps students safe on the large school buses. Tall, energy-absorbing seat backs offer protection to riders by cushioning and containing the students within their seating positions, much like the design of an egg carton. That’s why it’s so important for students to stay seated and facing forward, just like they would in a car or truck. Compartmentalization is one of the best proven safety restraint systems. However, per government regulations, small buses are required to have seatbelts because their size and weight are similar to passenger vehicles and riders need additional protection.

Our research to increase safety on buses is never-ending. Whether it is alarms and procedures to keep kids from being left on the bus, or the daily check of the upkeep and condition of the bus, we know that kids need to feel safe and secure to grow, thrive, and succeed. And the safety of our riders, your children, is at the heart of our business, because we know they are your heart walking around outside your body. So we don’t take our responsibility lightly and endeavor to give students the best start and finish to every school day - Caring for students, today, tomorrow, together.®