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Mythbusting Monday: National School Bus Safety Week

Pre teen boy getting on school busWDMCS bus drivers safely transport about 3,600 students each day. Each school year, they drive more than 700,000 miles. To celebrate these drivers and National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 19-23, we decided to bust some myths about buses and the West Des Moines Community Schools Transportation Department.

  • Myth: School buses are yellow to make them more visible.
    • This myth is TRUE.
    • School buses must, by law, be painted “National School Bus Glossy Yellow.” The color was originally chosen in 1939, during a conference that established national standards for school buses and school bus safety. It was the easiest color to see, especially in the hours when buses are on the road. Originally called “National School Bus Chrome,” the yellow is also easy to see in peripheral vision.
  • Myth: School buses are not safe without seat belts.
    • This myth is FALSE.
    • School buses are designed as the safest way to transport children. The design, and the way buses protect passengers, is totally different from a car’s design. School buses use what is called “passive restraint.” This means that all a child must do to be protected is remain seated.
    • The American School Bus Council explains it this way: “School bus passengers are protected like eggs in a carton — compartmentalized, and surrounded with padding and structural integrity to secure the entire container.” The entire bus is designed to be safe and protect all the passengers at once, so seat belts can be more of a hazard or distraction than a safety measure.
  • Myth: Other drivers must stop when school bus lights flash.
    • This myth is TRUE.
    • The first step to knowing what to do when you meet a bus on the road is understanding what the bus and its lights are telling you. This content is a simple breakdown of Iowa code 321.372, known as “Keep Aware Driving — Youth Need School Safety Act.”
    • What do the lights mean?
      • The yellow lights are a warning; the red lights should be treated as a stop light. Iowa law says a bus driver must turn on the yellow/amber flashing lights before they stop. They must turn on the yellow lights within specific distances, depending on speed limits in the area.
      • The driver turns on the red flashing lights when they have brought the bus to a full stop. They will also extend the stop arm. This is the point when students will enter or exit the bus.
    • What should a driver do?
      • If you meet a bus with flashing yellow lights (a warning), slow to 20 mph or less. Bring your vehicle to a complete stop when the red lights flash and the stop arm extends. Proceed with caution only after the stop arm is retracted.
      • NEVER try to “beat the bus.” Drivers must not pass school buses when the red or yellow lights are flashing. Bring vehicles to a complete stop 15 feet or more away from the bus.
Examples of what to do when you meet a bus on a two- or three-lane highway. (Image source: Iowa DOT)

Examples of what to do when you meet a bus on a two- or three-lane highway. (Image source: Iowa DOT)

There is one exception to these rules: If you meet a bus on a street where there are two or more lanes in each direction, you do not need to stop if you are traveling in the opposite direction from the bus.

Examples of what to do when you meet a bus on a four-lane highway. (Image source: Iowa DOT)

Examples of what to do when you meet a bus on a four-lane highway. (Image source: Iowa DOT)

Here are some more quick reminders for drivers and for students.

Sources
American School Bus Council
National Education Association
Wonderopolis.org
Mental Floss
Iowa Legislation: Code 321.372
Iowa Department of Transportation