School bus transportation, a small but highly significant section of public motor vehicle transportation, was selected for study. The evidence discloses that accepted safety features and practices are largely being ignored. Drivers, whom the safety establishment has traditionally indicated for accident causation, are not being selected, trained or supervised in accordance with any uniform guidelines. Four states do not require a medical examination, four require one only prior to employment, at infrequent intervals, or for drivers over 65.
Seventeen states permit school buses to be driven by 16- and 17-year olds, 14 states set a minimum age limit ranging from 18 through 20; 19 states require that schoolbus drivers be at least 21.
Although many states recommend maximum bus driver age limits, actually a total of 35 states set no maximum age limit. In 11 states 65 is the upper driver age limit, and in four others the limit is 70.
The majority of states do not conduct an adequate bus driver education program. Higher wage scales and professional status might alleviate the present shortage of drivers in some areas.
Substantial research on means of crash attenuation and occupant protection has not been implemented. Hostile interiors which have injury potential should be eliminated. Drivers should wear safety belts to insure maintenance of seated position and vehicle control in a collision. All passengers should have seat belts, but only in association with safety seats. Small school buses offer considerably less crash protection than standard full size buses.
Serious weaknesses in operational practices include allowing youngsters to stand in buses, the lack of auxiliary supervision to the driver by another responsible adult, and the careless practices in the crossing of children to and from the stopped bus. The importance of better driver supervision is stressed.
Effective countermeasures call for the Federal Government to develop uniform safety standards for the design of buses and for the operation of this essential public service to the youth of our nation.