Derek Graham, the state director for North Carolina, lays out three primary reasons why the yellow school bus has become a cultural icon for public education in an article published in the Spring 2012 edition of the Southeast Educational Network's (SEEN) magazine.
Graham's article, "The Yellow School Bus and Safety," draws upon data published on the American School Bus Council's relaunched SchoolBusFacts.com, the result of a partnership with NHTSA over the past year to develop a "My Choice...Their Ride" public awarneness campaign that highlights the convenience and potential cost savings for parents and safety for their children.
First, Graham points out that school buses provide one of the keys to a successful free public education: actual transportation to and from the classroom. For working parents who are unable to drive their children longer distances to and from school, the bus becomes a vital educational tool.
"School districts across the country are working to improve student outcomes in the classroom through a variety of program refinements and modifications, but one thing remains true. Students must be present for results to be seen," he writes. "Virtual schools and online learning notwithstanding, most students must be in a classroom to achieve the educational goals that have been established for them."
Graham also writes of the school bus safety benefits, as NHTSA data indicates "students are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends." But with with "a safety record second to none," he reminds of the need for schools to remain vigilant in ensuring the utmost safety of transporting students. To do so, he says schools must "look objectively at anything that compromises that system."
He highlights NASDPTS ongoing campaign that targets illegal passers of school buses by promoting a one-day count in states of lawbreakers. He also discusses a project in North Carolina that demonstrated how stop arm cameras can aid in the prosecution of these illegal passers, a trend that is gaining in popularity nationwide.
A third benefit of school buses, Graham writes, is they can help parents and teen drivers alike save on fuel costs, which have increased considerably nationwide over the past six months. At the same time, school buses can reduce traffic congestion around school sites. This can help the local environment, despite the fact that school buses don't particularly get good fuel mileage. Still, he points out that fuel savings in North Carolina amounts to 67 million gallons per year, which equates to $245 million at February 2012 price levels.
"Nationally, that translates to over 2.3 billion gallons and over $8 billion," he adds. "So, while people may not realize that this savings and convenience is a reason that the yellow school bus is an icon of the educational system, it is a very real benefit."
SEEN targets educators in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Graham told School Transportation News that over the years SEEN has approached him to author articles on school busing and student transportation issues.
"I guess I'm on their 'list,'" he added.
In the same Spring edition of SEEN Magazine, Dan Roberts, the former transportation director and executive director of long-range planning and business systems at Round Rock (Texas) ISD and current director of professional services for Transfinder, wrote an article on student safety in crisis situations both inside and outside school buses.