According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, taking a school bus is the safest way of transporting children to school. However, in New York City in 2012, school buses were involved in nearly 1,700 accidents – five every school day. These accidents resulted in nearly 900 injuries. Are school buses really that safe?
Many parents would answer “No” to that question. There is even a Facebook page for parents called “New York City Parents Fed Up With Transportation Troubles.” And news reports do not encourage parents to trust school buses. In February, an intoxicated bus driver in Westchester County crashed her bus with 35 students on board. In April, a school bus carrying 24 children under the age of six crashed into a fruit stand in Queens. Several children were injured, at least one seriously.
Last September, nine children and two adults were injured in a school bus accident that was the second accident since the 2014 -2015 school year started. The week before, 27 children had been injured when two buses collided in the Bronx. And the 2013 -2014 school year was even more frightening from the point of view of parents and school officials.
In October 2013, eight children were injured in Staten Island. Four more were injured in a December accident in Brooklyn. In March 2014, a bus flipped in a crash with a taxi, injuring six children and two adults.
Despite these stories about school bus accidents, statistics from the show that school buses nationally are very safe – safer than if parents drove children to school. One chart shows that teens on school buses are 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the bus than if they ride with friends or drive themselves. And they are about 20 percent more likely to get to school safely if they take the bus rather than riding with a parent or other adult.
The industry group American School Bus Council points out that buses are built for safety. They have cross-view mirrors, reinforced sides and stop signs. Drivers are trained in safety and medical procedures and have frequent drug tests as well as driving record reviews.
The Office of Pupil Transportation that oversees school bus operations in NYC is the largest school transportation operation in the United States. Every day, 600,000 public and private school students in New York City and surrounding areas receive transportation services. Additionally, the department transports students on more than 160,000 field trips every year.
A future blog will list the steps children and parents should take to stay safe while riding a yellow school bus.