Crashes and injuries on school buses

School bus occupants

In school bus crashes over the last couple of decades, fewer that 10% of school bus occupants have had any injury and 90% were not injured at all. The occupant most frequently injured is the bus driver since that seating position does not have the same passive occupant protections that passenger seats have, such as flexible and padded seat backs.

Occupants of other vehicles

The persons most likely to be injured in a school bus crash are drivers and passengers of vehicles that strike the bus or are struck by the bus.

Sixty percent of school bus fatalities involve non-bus occupants. Small vehicles do not do well in a crash with a big yellow bus or any other big vehicle, and should be driven accordingly.

The majority of school bus crashes are cited as the fault of the other vehicle's driver.


Pedestrians and occasionally a bicyclist (30%) are the next most frequent persons injured in school bus crashes.

  • This includes children (usually age 5-7) struck by a bus or by an illegally passing motor vehicle while a child is boarding or de-boarding a bus.
  • These types of incidents are rare, an average of one fatality per year in Wisconsin.

Other pedestrians can be injured or killed when they approach too close to bus danger zones where bus drivers cannot see. Or if they fail to move away from the bus quickly and correctly so the bus driver can see them, and other drivers can see all the children at one stop together.

  • Children should never try to pick up something dropped near the bus. They should ask the bus driver or another adult to get the item after notifying the driver or after waiting for the bus to leave the area.
  • This type of crash is rare, but an average of one child per year is killed this way in Wisconsin.

A third type of bus-related pedestrian injury or fatality occurs when a child's clothing or objects they carry become entrapped in the railing leading down the stairwell.

  • The type of bus railing that led to this kind of incident in the past has been recalled and should no longer be in use on school buses. By adjusting and checking mirrors and counting and re-counting children bus drivers can help prevent most pedestrian injuries and deaths.
  • Parents should make sure their child's clothing has no nylon or other non breaking fabric in loose long or stretchy hangings from coats, scarves, purses, tops, pants, book bags and backpacks, and even loose shoe laces if they are very long. These can get trapped in bus handles or doors.

The role of parents

The single biggest threat to our children as they travel to school on the bus, on foot, or by bicycle is the way people drive their cars, trucks and SUVs. Parents who drive their children to school and pick them up after school are often the cause of many children's injuries. Children can be seriously hurt inside vehicles that crash, in even minor crashes, if they are not properly restrained.

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