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School bus season begins soon in metro Atlanta

In less than a month, most school districts in metro Atlanta will be back in session. While school supplies, uniforms and maybe even lunches are chief concerns of most students and parents, they may give little consideration to the big yellow vehicle that transports about half of students daily.

Consider some interesting statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the American School Bus Council and Safe Routes to School National Partnership:

School bus transportation is safer than passenger cars.

Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely by taking a bus than traveling by car. That’s because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road: They’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every state, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists.

The school bus is designed with student safety in mind.

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School buses are designed so that they’re highly visible and include safety features such as flashing red lights, cross-view mirrors and stop-sign arms. They also include protective seating, high crush standards and rollover-protection features. Each year, approximately 800 school-age children are killed in motor vehicle crashes during normal school travel hours. About 2 percent of these deaths occur on school buses, while 74 percent occur in private passenger vehicles. Approximately 22 percent are bicycle or pedestrian accidents. More than half of these deaths overall are due to a teen driver.

School buses cut down on traffic volume.

The average school bus transports 54 student passengers, replacing approximately 36 family vehicles. As much as 20 to 30 percent of morning traffic is generated by parents driving their children to schools.

School buses cut down on pollution.

Although many school districts are seeking to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, even diesel-powered buses help reduce harmful toxins in the air. With a nationwide capability of removing up to 17 million cars from joining the daily commute, school bus ridership saves over 20 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.

Parents save money by using the school bus.

Parents who drive a child to school instead of letting them ride a bus ride use approximately 180 additional gallons of fuel per year, spend an additional $663 on fuel, and put 3,600 miles on their car.

Even with data showing so many reasons for children to ride the bus to school, the numbers have been declining since the 1980s when slightly more than 60 percent of students rode the bus, according to Safe Routes to School, a national nonprofit.

The myriad of parent and student blogs show a few reasons often cited:

The long ride

The average length of a school bus ride varies depending who you ask. The state of New York has a mandate that a child’s commute shouldn’t be longer than an hour. In Iowa, the maximum is supposed to be 75 minutes for high schoolers and no more than an hour for younger kids. Many national agencies site 20 to 30 minutes as average.

Bullying

Many parents and students who commented on blog posts said the problem with bullying on a bus is that it’s easier to get away with. The driver’s main duty is to drive, so he or she can’t witnesses subtleties that can be as harmful as an all-out slugfest. Some districts have added monitors which appear to cut down, if not eliminate this problem.

Unruliness and noise

As anyone who has been with a large group of people in a confined space can tell you, voices carry. Even a whisper can turn deafening when it’s multiplied by 50 or more. And depending upon the age, it’s nearly impossible to keep kids still for more than a few minutes.

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