The School Bus, One of the Safest Vehicles on the Road


School buses have been specifically designed and equipped to carry students. Therefore, they are one of the only vehicles on the road with a design that maximizes the safety for children. Research by Transport Canada is being completed to maintain this high degree of safety of school buses to further improve upon the effectiveness of their design. Furthermore, since serious accidents involving a school bus where someone is severely injured or killed are rare, they are studied on a case by case basis. This allows for Transport Canada to study in-depth which mechanisms have failed so that future designs of buses can be enhanced so that instances do not repeat.

Every school bus seen on the road is designed to meet safety criteria and standards set out by Transport Canada, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) in the CSA D-250 for school buses and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. In terms of design, every school bus has the following features for safety:


The CSA D-250 school buses sets the standards for the colour of paint to be used on the exterior of the bus. The highly distinguishable yellows and blacks make the school bus one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road. Because the colours create increased recognition, then near by traffic know to drive with extra caution.

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Stop Indicators

All school buses are equipped with flashing lights and a stop arm, which are activated whenever a child is being picked up or dropped off from the bus. These signals are used to indicate to traffic approaching from both sides of the road to come to a full stop and to remain so until the indicator has been deactivated. These safe-guards are enforced with high penalties given to any vehicle that fails to stop for a school bus. Such an offence translates into a loss of 6 demerit points, along with a substantial fine.

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Mirrors and Crossing Arm

School buses have devices to allow the driver to see if there are people or objects around the bus. To accomplish this, the bus design includes strategically placed mirrors that allow the driver to see 360° around the bus. The crossing arm is used so that the bus driver can see the students cross the road, ensuring that they can be seen at all times when the student is in front of the bus.

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Intelligent Design

School buses are designed to protect passengers on board from impact. To accomplish this, just about every feature of this design was specifically chosen to reduce the effects of a collision. School buses are required to have increased body strength by the provision of horizontal full length impact rails located at the shoulder, cushion, floor levels and lower shirt levels. In addition to the sheer size of the bus, the floors are raised protecting the students by having them sit above the impact zone where an automobile would typically hit a school bus. The bus is further protected from side impacts with the design of the windows, shaped small enough to prevent passengers from being ejected from the vehicle.

The school bus is specifically designed to reduce the shock of impact with a moveable structure. In order to absorb
the energy of a collision the bus is structured to be able to slide up to 12 inches along the chassis frame.

There are also rollover precautions put into the school bus design that reduce the risk of serious injury caused if the bus were to roll. The interior of the bus is a smooth rounded shell, free from sharp edges. The goal of this design is to ensure that the energy from an impact is absorbed by the entire body and not just certain areas. There are also various emergency exits placed on both sides of the bus, the back, and an escape hatch on the roof.

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The interior of a school bus uses a design called ‘compartmentalization’. The purpose of this design is to minimize the impact and injury on students should a collision occur. To achieve this, the seats are made with high backs with padding on the front and back made from impact absorbing material. These seats have strong anchorage and are spaced closely together to create compartments. The premise of this design, backed by vast amounts of continuing research, is that if a collision were to occur, these special compartments would absorb the impact dispersing it throughout the entire body as opposed to solely the head and neck. For this reason, the compartmentalization model is generally more favoured than the seat belt model.

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School Bus Drivers

The school bus drivers are well trained to drive and deal with the numerous issues which can occur while transporting children, safety is always first on their minds.

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