(Last Updated on: March 11, 2021 )

An image of the windshield on a school bus shows the blog title, "School Bus Safety: What Every Parent Should Know" in custom text overlay.

As a parent, you worry about your children no matter what. Their safety will always be your top priority. Now that the new school year has begun and you have to send them onto the bus every morning, it may be hard to quiet that nagging concern at the back of your mind — will they arrive safely?

It’s normal to ask this question when your child’s well-being is on the line. If you’re looking for information on school bus safety, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll also find suggestions on how to further protect your children from bus-related incidences.

Top School Bus Safety Question: How Safe Are School Buses?

Parents will be relieved to know that students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely by bus compared to traveling by car.

New buses must be certified according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) federal school bus safety standards. As a result, they have been designed to include safety features such as stronger exteriors, high visibility, flashing red lights, cross-view mirrors and stop-sign arms that signal motorists to stop when children are crossing the street. There are also three additional standards regarding rollover protection, body joint strength, passenger seating, and crash protection that are unique to school buses. This makes them safer than passenger vehicles.

To protect students while they are boarding and getting off the bus, there are also laws that prohibit motorists from passing a school bus while passengers are being picked up or dropped off.

A mother squats down with her arms open to embrace her daughter as she gets off the school bus.

Onboard Safety Features

A common question asked about school buses is whether it’s safe for children if there are no seat belts. The short answer is, yes.

Since buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently, passengers would experience less crash force than those in smaller vehicles (such as passenger cars, light trucks, and vans). Furthermore, the NHTSA school bus safety standards require the installation of strong, closely-spaced seats with high-absorbing seatbacks. This concept, called “compartmentalization,” makes them safer in collisions, which can help prevent serious injuries and fatalities — even without seat belts.

However, school buses that have a gross vehicle weight under 10,000 pounds must be equipped with seatbelts to provide passengers with additional protection.

From 2008 to 2017, there were a total of 1,241 fatalities due to school-transportation-related crashes — an average of 124 fatalities per year. Of these, 10% were occupants of school transportation vehicles like school buses, while 70% were occupants of other vehicle types. This shows that even without seatbelts, children are less likely to be injured on a school bus. 

Safety Around the School Bus

Comparatively, children are at a greater risk of school-bus-related injuries when they are around the bus. Many of these injuries happen when passengers are boarding or getting off the bus. 

Fatalities often happen within the “danger zone,” which is the 10-feet perimeter around the vehicle. The children can sometimes be struck by the bus or passing vehicles who illegally ignore the flashing red lights.

In response to this, many school bus companies have installed mechanical arms that provide an additional signal for motorists to stop. Cameras are also commonly installed to identify motorists that don’t stop.


A closeup shot of a stop sign on a school bus shows the flashing red lights as children leave the bus in the background.

School Bus Driver Standards

There have been devastating instances where the reckless actions of negligent drivers resulted in the death of children and loved ones. 

To help prevent this from occurring, the NHTSA requires school bus drivers to complete a refresher training course. This will help to ensure they meet the following requirements:

  • Trained in student behavior management
  • Trained in safety and security procedures
  • Trained in emergency medical procedures
  • Pre-employment and random drug/alcohol testing
  • Frequent driving record checks

How Can You Keep Your Children Safe?

As you can see, the NHTSA has implemented many regulations and requirements to keep children safe. However, because of factors such as negligent drivers, teaching your children to follow traffic safety rules can also minimize their risk of getting injured.

Here are some school bus safety tips every child should know:

  • Arrive at least 5 minutes earlier than the bus arrival time, and stand at least three or four giant steps away from the curb
  • Don’t play in the street while waiting
  • Line up facing the school bus door, never along the side of the bus
  • Stay away from the bus until it stops completely or when the driver says it’s okay to get on
  • Be five giant steps away from the front of the bus before crossing
  • Make eye contact with the driver to make sure he/she can see you before crossing
  • Never walk behind the bus
  • Ask the bus driver to help you retrieve an item if you drop something near the bus

If you or any of your loved ones have been injured in an auto accident or by a bus due to driver-negligence, we send our heartfelt condolences to your family. To speak with the lawyers at Hodes Milman in a free legal consultation, please contact us at (949) 640-8222. We will help you make sense of your options.




HMI team

When you work with us, you’ll see the difference. A lot of firms are quick to show you numbers, and it is absolutely true that your lawyer should have experience and a strong track record in the area that you require. However, we’ll take it one step further. We also believe that your attorney should put your needs, cares and desires first. Because you deserve more than just compensation for your losses - you deserve a true advocate.

HMI team