School Buses and Motorists

First Draft (5th revision)


This paper tackles a very sensitive topic. Previous attempts to tackle this subject have caused a wave of emotional replies saying that they would not want to live in the neighborhood of a person who is in such a rush all the time that he would put a child's life in jeopardy simply to save a few minutes of his time. Just the suggestion of a way to make school bus less annoying seems to trigger an emotional response that I care nothing about children's safety.

Before you read this paper, I ask you to read it with an open mind or don't read it at all.

The Problem

Many motorists find school buses very annoying, and will do almost anything to get around them. School bus systems have responded to this problem by making it more and more obvious that motorist needs to stop for school buses with flashing red lights by also having a stop sign that goes out telling the motorists to stop. I however propose that school buses stop traffic only when reasonably necessary and pull over frequently so that motorist will be less eager to pass a school bus.

The Solution

To help benefit everyone school bus drivers should be required to pull over after every other stop if conditions allow for it, be required to pull off the main road and onto a residential street when letting off more than five students, and finally be permitted to use their flashers only when reasonably necessary and not when letting off every child.

Pull Over When Possible

School buses should be required to pull over and let other traffic by when it is safe to do so. In general, this should be every other stop. However, this may not always be possible, as there may be no place to do so safely. For example, in the winter a school bus could got stuck in snow or slide into a ditch on ice if it pulls over on a uncleared shoulder. For this reason, school bus drivers should be required to pull over every other stop, or as often as it is safe to do so.

I realize that some bus drivers do this; however, in my experience not enough do.

Pull Onto Side Streets

When a school bus has to let out more then five children on a main road, the school bus should be required to pull into a neighborhood or subdivision if the school bus is able to get out of the subdivision fairly easily--even if it means adding an extra minute or two to the bus driver's route. This is justified out of respect for all the other traffic that has to sit and wait two minutes, wasting gas and polluting the environment, while all the children gets off. Letting off half a school bus on a main street can also create serious traffic backups. Even in a small town's main street traffic can often get backed up for over half a mile in both directions while the school bus lets half the children on the bus off. This problem can be avoided if the bus driver simply pulls off into the neighborhood.

Use Flashers Only When Necessary

I feel that school bus drivers should use their flashers only when really necessary. The flashers stop traffic only while the school bus is there. In general, the bus moves away as soon as the child is off the bus and on the sidewalk or driveway. So, unless there is an adult to greet them, nothing actually stops the child from darting back out into the street. For smaller children, there is often an adult who greets the child at the bus stop or a "bus captain" who leads the child to safety which minimizes the chance that the child will dart out into traffic. In either case, stopping traffic will serve no real benefit.

Flashers should only be used when a child has to cross a street, or when there is a reasonable chance that the child may dart out into the street. A reasonable chance means that a child under 14 is getting on or off the bus without the assistance of a responsible adult or bus captain. When a child is getting on the bus, the adult or bus captain should hold the hand of the child until the child is inside the bus. When getting off the bus, the child should either be greeted by a responsible adult at the bus door or be led to safety by a bus captain. If these conditions are not met then there is a reasonable chance that the child may dart out into traffic and traffic should stop.

Please note that I care very much about a child safety, and if there is a reasonable chance that the child might get hit by traffic, traffic should stop. However, in most cases the chance that the child runs out into the street is next to nothing. The probability that your child would be killed by getting on or off the school bus in the 1995-96 school year was roughly .0001% or one in a million. (See Notes)

I also feel that the liability laws should be changed so that it is not the bus driver's fault if it is reasonably out of his control. For example, if an adult is already holding the hand of the child.


In conclusion, bus drivers should make more of an effort not to hold up traffic, and the laws should be changed so that bus drivers would only use their flashers when reasonably necessary. By doing this drivers will be less eager to get around a school bus, and thus increase safety for the children on the bus.


I would like to know what you think. Please fill out this simple survey to let me know:

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Pull Over When Possible

Pull Onto Side Streets

Use Flashers Only When Necessary



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Andrew Gregory <> (Thu Jan 1 07:48:10 1998)
NY NMA Activist

My wife & I have a six month old daughter, who of course isn't going to be riding a school bus anytime soon. As a parent, I would be concerned about the safety of the bus and the ride. I see nothing in your proposals that would compromise our child's safety. In fact, your first two points would be an added safety benefit.



To come up with the .0001% probability I divided the number of children killed in a school bus loading or unloading zone from the 1995-96 Loading/Unloading Zone Survey which was 25 by the estimated number of children that ride a school bus daily from the School Transportation Fact Sheet put out by School Transportation News which is 22.5 million and then multiplied that by 100 to get a percentage of .0001%. ((25/23500000)*100=.0001%).

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