School Bus Safety: What Are the Security Standards? (2022 Edition)

School buses are the primary means of transport for schoolers. That's why they are much safer than the regular buses.

You must be wondering: What are the school bus safety standards & how to ensure the child's safety on the road?

We talk about the official school bus safety regulations, tips on how to keep your children secure in the school buses, and school bus laws.


Take away key points:

  • A school bus is the safest means of transportation for school-aged children
  • Security tips include guidelines for parents/caregivers and drivers
  • As a parent, you must teach your kid what to do/not to do near the bus and at the station
  • As a driver, you should be cautious of all children in your proximity, follow the traffic signs, and attend specific training sessions to increase the security of all passengers
  • Obeying the official laws to protect young passengers
  • You can find various programs for buses and kids with fragile health conditions

School Bus Safety for Children: What You Need to Know

Each year, school buses transport more than 25 million kids to and from schools, as the American School Bus Council - ASBC claims. The NHTSA believes school buses must be the safest vehicles for children. Therefore, school buses must meet multiple standards and regulations for the safest use. Let's get straight into the topic.

What is a school bus?

school bus safety tips

A school bus is a motor vehicle with a capacity of eleven and more people - including the driver. For the NHTSA's safety school bus rules, the school bus is a motor vehicle with a specific purpose - transporting students to and from school.

A school district or a State might also define the vehicle, differing from the NHTSA's definition. However, the differences do not exclude or affect the NHTSA safety standards.

All officials must follow the primary rule: a new bus leased or sold for student transportation must exceed all Federal school bus standards (FMVSS) set by the NHTSA. You can find more about the National Motor and Vehicle Safety Act here.

School bus safety facts

Children between four and six years old die yearly on school transportation, less than one percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide, as the NHTSA states. In addition, school-aged kids are around 70% able to get to school safely when taking a school bus instead of other passenger vehicles.

A school bus is the most regulated vehicle on the road. It's designed to prevent crash injuries so that school children will be safer than in other cars. In each state, the stop-arm laws protect kids from other motorists, increasing their security in school transportation.

How do school buses stand out?

School bus safety is increased and different than in other vehicles due to the following reasons:

  • School buses are different in design. A school bus is created to be highly visible and includes multiple security features, such as stop-sign arms, cross-view mirrors, and flashing red lights. The school bus also includes rollover protection standards, high crash features, and protective seating.
  • School buses comply with specific laws. Safety laws protect children getting on and off the school buses by making it illegal for other drivers to pass a school bus while picking up or dropping off the kids, regardless of the direction of the approach.

School bus safety & seat belts

school bus safety rules

Seat belts have been obligatory in motor vehicles since 1968. Multiple states and the District of Columbia have laws requesting light trucks and passenger seat belt systems.

Seat belts play a crucial role in collisions, keeping all passengers safe and protected from severe injuries. However, school buses are specific in design, using different child restraint systems that work well in transportation.

Large school buses are heavier due to the construction. They distribute crash impacts and forces differently than light trucks and passenger cars. Due to these differences, claims the NHTSA, school bus passengers experience fewer crash forces than those in light trucks, passenger cars, or vans.

The best way to prevent school bus crashes and keep children safe is through the so-called "compartmentalization." Compartmentalization means children do not need to buckle up inside the school bus. Instead, the interior of the large school bus and the school bus seats will protect the kids.

The interior of the school bus offers solid and closely-spaced seats with energy-absorbing seat backs. Thus, the inner construction protects children from crashes.

Small school buses (up to 10,000 pounds of maximum weight) must provide lap or/and shoulder/lap belts at all seating positions. As the small school bus' weight matches those of passenger cars, light trucks, and vans, seat belt systems in these vehicles are obligatory to provide passengers safety during transportation.

School bus stop & safety standards

The biggest risk of accidents and injuries for your children is not on the bus but when leaving or approaching the vehicle at bus stops. Both parents and children must know the traffic safety rules before kids start or return to school. Parents should teach their children the following safety tips to make school bus transportation more secure.

Safety tips for parents

Below you can find crucial rules at the bus stops:

  • Safety begins at the bus stop. Your child should arrive at the bus stop five minutes before the bus. You should show their child where and how to wait for the bus - at least six feet/three giant steps away from the curb. Teach the child not to run around on the stop.
  • Getting on and off safely. Your child should wait until the school bus driver stops the bus, the door opens, and the driver's signal confirms it's okay to get on/off the bus. They should wait for the driver's eye contact to ensure it's safe to cross the street. Your child should use handrails to avoid falling from the entrance. Students must never play with the emergency exits, and their items shouldn't block the doors.
  • Be cautious around the bus. Teach kids never to walk behind or around school buses. If the children must cross the street in front of the bus, they should walk at least five giant steps - ten feet in front of the vehicle, to ensure the bus driver sees them. When your child drops something near the bus, it's best to tell the bus driver instantly. They mustn't try to pick their items up, as the bus driver might not see them. Unauthorized crossing of the street might get children killed.
  • Preventing injuries on the bus. Teach kids not to distract the driver. They should talk quietly. In addition, teach students not to put their arm, head, or hand out the window.

Safety tips for bus drivers

School bus drivers have the most vital task: keeping students safe. The drivers must follow these steps:

school bus safety for drivers
  • Be alert. Kids arriving late for the bus might cross the street or run around school buses without looking at the traffic signs.
  • Be cautious of kids playing near the bus stop.
  • Slow down. Be aware of the kids walking near the bus stop, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
  • Be cautious of other people trying to reach the school in the school zones.
  • Watch for students riding bicycles or similar vehicles in school zones.
  • Learn and comply with all school bus laws in your state, including the flashing lights that drivers use to alert the motorists on the following actions:
  • Extended stop arm and red flashing lights. The stop arms and red lights flashing brightly show that the bus has come to a complete stop and students are getting off or on. Motorists will stop vehicles and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the driver withdraws the extended stop arm, and the bus begins moving before the motorists can start driving again.
  • Yellow flashing lights. The yellow lights show that the bus will stop to board or unload the students. Motorists should slow down in the school zones and prepare to stop their vehicles.

In addition to the rules, the NHTSA also provides the improved School Bus Driver In-Service Curriculum. The curriculum refers to regular training, vital for a driver to stay up-to-date with all new regulations. The driver will maintain and improve the security of students in and around the bus.

School bus law

The NCSL acquired a specific school bus law regarding the camera and seat belt system. The seat belt law is similar to the NHTSA's regulations and law. However, the bus camera law includes the following statements:

  • Most state laws request vehicles on both sides of a road without a median to stop and remain stopped while the lights and stop arms are deployed.
  • Twenty-four states directly allow school districts or local governments to use cameras to issue tickets and capture images of drivers illegally passing a stopped school bus.

School bus & the kids with special needs

The Traffic Injury Prevention Project is sponsored by PennDOT, providing parents, caregivers, hospitals, schools, and similar facilities with the latest information about the atypical transportation for children with specific health needs. The project includes particular child restraints, wheelchairs, buses, and similar transporting devices. Please call 1-800-CAR-BELT for more information.


What is the safest part of a school bus?

The safest part of the school bus is in the middle between the tires, in an aisle seat on the right-hand side. It's the safest part in rear-end, head-on, and side crashes.

What are the danger zones of a bus?

The danger zones of a bus are the immediate surroundings of the bus. The zones include ten feet in front, at the back, and ten feet from the side of the bus.

What are the safety measures for riding a bus?

school bus safety statistics

The safety measures in riding a bus include:

  • Sitting correctly, forward-facing all the time
  • Keeping body parts inside the bus
  • Placing objects in the lap or under the seats
  • Proper walk or crossing the road
  • Waiting for the bus back from the curb.

What are the most common types of school bus accidents?

The most common types of school bus accidents include:

- Accidents including other vehicles

- Accidents involving pedestrians

- Accidents including bus occupants

Why do school buses not have seat belts?

School buses don't have seat belts because their interior protects children from injuries. The stop-arm laws in every country also prevent children from accidents in buses.

Final Words

Following the school bus safety procedures and tips is the safest way to keep your children secure in buses. You must train your kids to respect the drivers and rules to avoid accidents and fatalities. The restrictions apply on board and off the buses as well. Otherwise, the pupils won't be secure.

Avatar of Kathy Warner

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here

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