The National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey is a collection of fatality accident records provided by the state agencies responsible for school transportation safety and/or accident records. Only those fatality accidents involving K-12 school children in or around the loading or unloading areas of a school bus or transit bus are included in this survey. Fatalities that occur on-board a school bus are not reported here. Student fatalities that occur at a bus stop before or after the bus has departed are not listed. Neither are fatalities that occur on the way to or from the bus stop, nor those that occur to motorists who strike, or are struck by, a school bus.
Compiled annually by the School Bus Safety Unit at the Kansas Department of Education (and previously the Kansas Department of Transportation), this series started with the 1970-1971 school year. Over the 40-plus years of this series, 66 percent of the fatalities occured to students ages 2 to 9 years of age. Students departing the bus or on their way home from school experienced 60 percent of all fatalities. School buses were the cause of 57 percent of the total fatalities while motorists who passed a stopped school buses with its red light flashing, struck and killed nearly 39 percent of the total fatilities. The report indicates "other information" accounts for the remaining four percent.
The survey shows fatalities that occur going to school, coming home, on activity trips, and by motorists that pass a school bus that has stopped to load or unload school children. Survey results are usually released in December for the previous school year. Fatalities during activity trip transportation are not included since only six occured during the three decades reported. One activity trip-related fatality occured in 1970, 1973, 1974, 1990, and one in 2005; two occured in 1978. Fatalities involving school children that occur on public transit buses have only been included since 1996. The data is spotty since the public transit industry does not report for this study.
There has also been an argument within the school transportation industry of what constitutes a loading/unloading fatality or injury. Historically, only fatalities were reported by states that occurred when the bus was at the stop. But news reports nationwide chronicle all-too frequent instances of child deaths occuring minutes before or after the school bus is on scene. School Transportation News compiles its own data based on these news reports. For the 2009-2010 school year, STN found twice as many accounts of student deaths at or near the school bus stop as the 13 student fatalities reported by the Kansas State Department of Education.