School buses are the safest vehicles on the road. School buses are designed to be highly visible. They include features such as flashing lights, cross-view mirrors, stop-sign arms, and protective seating. Traffic laws also protect children getting off and on a school bus. These laws make it illegal for drivers to pass a school bus while dropping off or picking up passengers.
The greatest risk to children riding a bus is when they are getting on or off the vehicle. Before a family begins receiving transportation services, help families and children become familiar with safe riding practices, safe boarding and exiting, safely crossing the street, recognizing danger zones around the vehicle, and emergency evacuation procedures. Conduct emergency evacuation drills with each child on the vehicle the child will be riding. Ensure bus staff conduct at least two bus evacuation drills during the program year.
Drivers should be able to operate vehicles in a safe and efficient manner, safely run a fixed route, administer basic first aid, and handle emergency situations such as evacuations. They should also know how to operate any special equipment such as wheelchair lifts, assistance devices, or special occupant restraints. They should conduct routine maintenance and safety checks of the vehicle, maintain accurate records, and meet the transportation needs of children with disabilities.
Programs that transport children or provide contracted transportation services must ensure that the vehicles meet all federal school bus requirements and comply with state laws. 45 CFR §1303 Subpart F of the HSPPS applies to all agencies regardless of whether transportation is provided on agency-owned or agency-leased vehicles or through arrangement with a private or public transportation provider. Except for transportation services to children served under a home-based option, at least one bus monitor must always be on board, with additional bus monitors provided as necessary.
For all bus monitors, provide training on:
- How children will board and exit vehicles
- Use of child safety restraint systems and any special equipment
- Completion of any required paperwork
- How to respond to emergencies, and administer basic first aid and CPR
- Child pickup and release procedures
- Pre- and post-trip vehicle checks
Ensure each bus or vehicle transporting children is equipped with an emergency communication system and appropriate emergency safety equipment, including a seat belt cutter, charged fire extinguisher, and first aid kit. Develop checks to ensure vehicles are maintained appropriately and always kept in safe operating condition. When the vehicle is in use, the bus driver and monitors should ensure that baggage and any other items transported are properly stored and secured, the aisles are kept clear, and doors and emergency exits are always unobstructed.
Children are safer when managers, drivers, and monitors work together and communicate well. Review required training, safety checks, and recordkeeping as they relate to transportation and drivers to ensure the program is meeting all safety requirements and standards. Everyone is involved in making sure no child is left behind, either at the program or on the vehicle, and that children are never unattended in or around a vehicle. Transportation teams use active supervision when children are boarding, exiting, and riding the bus. Promoting safe transportation protects children as they travel to and from program activities.
Tips and Strategies for Maintaining School Bus Safety
- Ensure each child is seated in a Child Safety Restraint Systems appropriate for the child’s age, height, and weight.
- Ensure transportation staff always have up-to-date child rosters with photos and lists of the adults each child is authorized to be released to, including alternates, in case of emergency.
- Help children become familiar with the transportation routine by sharing social stories to describe bus pickup, the ride, arrival at the program, the ride home, and who will greet them upon arrival home. This reduces their anxiety and reduces potential behavioral challenges.
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety
Audience: Directors and Managers
Last Updated: September 6, 2023