Tuesday, March 29, 2011


1995 Ford 15 Passenger van owned by Laurens County (Ga) Rural Transit System transporting Head Start childred involved in a fatal crash at East Dublin, Georgia, December 8, 1998. NTSB Photo



In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the National Transportation Safety Board investigated a number of catastrophic school bus accidents in which children were killed or severely injured because of the vehicles’ joint failure and structural collapse. Based on its findings in these accident investigations, the Safety Board issued several safety recommendations1 to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to improve the crashworthiness of school buses so as to afford our nation’s youth better occupant crash protection in the event of accidents.

The resulting revisions to 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), contained in Part 571, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), require that large and small yellow school buses2 transporting children to and from school or school-related activities have roof rollover protection, energy-absorbing seats, and greater body joint strength than most other types of vehicles. The enactment of these standards has had an enormous impact on the safety of student transportation. According to a NHTSA fact sheet on school buses, the number of school bus passenger fatalities nationwide averages fewer than 10 each year out of approximately 10 billion student trips.3

In recent years, the Safety Board has investigated several serious accidents
highlighting a disturbing trend in pupil transportation. Some school districts, day care centers, Head Start facilities, contract transportation companies, and other concerns are using “nonconforming buses,” that is, vehicles for student transportation that meet the Federal definition of a bus4 but not the Federal occupant crash protection standards of school buses. This trend is potentially serious in that it puts children at greater risk of fatal or serious injury in the event of an accident. During an 11-month period beginning in spring 1998, the Safety Board investigated four accidents involving nonconforming buses, summarized below, that resulted in 9 people dying and 36 people sustaining serious and minor injuries. Most of the victims, including the eight fatalities, were children.

On March 25, 1998, in Sweetwater, Florida, a 15-passenger van hired by parents to take children to and from school collided with a transit bus. Three children were ejected and sustained head injuries. On March 26, 1998, in Lenoir City, Tennessee, a 25-passenger .... Click here to read the original report on line in PDF format