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THE BOOK OF EDUCATION
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_bus

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

School bus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
An IC Corporation CE300 bus transporting Houston ISD students.
An IC Corporation CE300 bus transporting Houston ISD students.
A private light bus for students in Hong Kong.
A private light bus for students in Hong Kong.

A school bus or school omnibus is a bus used to transport children and adolescents to and from school. The first school bus was horse-drawn, introduced in 1827 by George Shillibeer for a Quaker school at Abney Park in Stoke Newington, London, United Kingdom and was designed to carry 25 children.

The bus has subsequently become a major mode of transportation, particularly of children to school. Children may travel to school on regular public bus services. In some cases public bus services may run field trips and high school athletic events, and private coach services may put on their own paid services. In North America, however, the school bus is itself a specific type of bus distinct from other buses. Canada and the United States have specially built, painted and equipped school buses. They are commonly painted an orange-yellow color (officially known as "National School Bus Chrome Yellow") for purposes of visibility and safety and equipped with specialized traffic warning devices, with the exception of school activity buses (normally used exclusively for point-to-point field and athletic trips and not used for home delivery routes) which are built to the same standards but are customarily some color other than yellow and are usually not equipped with traffic warning devices. Most used in recent years have been diesel-powered. Full-size school buses can seat 59 to 90 passengers, but in many districts smaller vehicles are used as well. Such smaller vehicles are commonly known as "short buses", and are often used for low-density routes associated with private schools and programs for magnet programs and developmentally-challenged students.

Most U.S. school districts purchase the buses and hire their own drivers, while others engage the service of school bus contractors such as Laidlaw to perform this function. School bus services in the UK in almost all cases are contracted out to local bus companies. Elsewhere in Europe school bus services are contracted to local bus companies, which use regional buses that operate on regular lines at other times, or in some cases older regional buses.

History

Early modes: wagons, kid hacks

Wayne Works, predecessor of Wayne Corporation, was founded in the United States of America in 1837. By 1886, and possibly earlier, it is known that the company was making horse-drawn school carriages which many people referred to as "school hacks," "school cars," "school trucks," or "kid hacks." ("hack" was a term for certain types of horse-drawn carriages.)

Motorized vehicles

In 1914, Wayne Works dropped a wooden kid hack onto an automobile chassis, creating a predecessor to the modern motor school bus. In the bodies for school transportation the company produced through this era, passengers sat on perimeter seating, facing the center rather than the front of the bus. Entry and egress was through a door at the rear, a design begun in non-motorized days so as not to startle the horses. This was possibly a precursor to the rear emergency door commonly found on modern school buses.

In 1927, Blue Bird Body Company and Wayne Works began building all-steel bus bodies, followed by others by 1935. In the 1930s, the school bus bodies of Wayne Works began to include a group of heavy-duty "collision rails" or "guard rails" as an added safety feature.

Early school buses primarily served rural areas where it was deemed impractical for the young students to walk the distances necessary to get back and forth from school on their own, and were sometimes no more than a truck with perhaps a tarpaulin stretched over the truck bed.

Wayne Works was one of the earliest school bus companies to offer glass in place of the standard canvas curtains in the passenger area long before many "school" bus companies did in the early 1930s.

Experiments with transit-style school buses

In the 1930s, Wayne Works, Crown Coach, Gillig Bros., and other school bus body companies manufactured some transit-style school buses, that is, types with a more or less flat front-end design (known in modern times as "type D" school buses). Crown Coach built the first heavy duty, high capacity, transit style school coach in 1932, and is considered to have made the most transit buses during this period, as many California school districts operated in terrain requiring heavy duty vehicles.

In 1950, Albert L. Luce, founder of the Blue Bird Body Company, developed a transit style design which evolved into the Blue Bird All-American, generally considered the first successful east coast school bus transit design. However, the "conventional" design, with a truck type hood and front-end (known as type C on modern school buses) was to continue to dominate US school bus manufacturing through the end of the 20th century.

Dr. Frank W. Cyr: father of the yellow school bus

Children boarding a school bus in 1940.
Children boarding a school bus in 1940.

Most school buses turned the now-familiar yellow color beginning in 1939. In April of that year, Dr. Frank W. Cyr, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York organized a conference that established national school bus construction standards, including the standard color of yellow for the school bus. It became known officially as "National School Bus Chrome," later renamed "National School Bus Glossy Yellow." The color, which has come to be frequently called simply "school bus yellow", was selected because black lettering on that hue was easiest to see in the semi-darkness of early morning and late afternoon.

The conference met for seven days and the attendees created a total of 45 standards, including specifications regarding body length, ceiling height, and aisle width. Dr. Cyr's conference, funded by a US $5,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, was also a landmark event inasmuch as it included transportation officials from each of the then 48 states, as well as specialists from school bus manufacturing and paint companies. The conference approach to school bus safety, as well as the yellow color, has endured into the 21st century. Dr. Cyr became well-known as the "Father of the Yellow School Bus."

Growth in school bus use after World War II

Following World War II, there was a nationwide movement in the U.S. to consolidate public schools into fewer and larger ones. This meant that fewer students were attending school in their immediate neighborhood, particularly as they progressed into high school. This led in turn to a large increase in the demand for school buses.

Safety

Protecting school children loading and unloading

By the mid 1940s, most states had traffic laws requiring motorists to stop for school buses while children were loading or unloading. The justifications for this protocol were that:

  • Children, especially the younger ones, have normally not yet developed the mental capacity to fully embrace the danger and consequences of crossing safety without adult supervision. Under U.S. tort laws, a child cannot legally be held accountable for negligence for this reason. For that same reason, adult crossing guards often are deployed in walking zones between homes and schools.
  • It is impractical in many cases to avoid children crossing the traveled portions of roadways after leaving a school bus or to have an adult accompany them.
  • The size of a school bus generally limits visibility for both the children and motorists during loading and unloading.

Warning lights and safety devices

School bus safety officials were aware that many accidents occurred when traffic was not aware that the hazard existed, and children on foot were hit by other vehicles. The standardized yellow color helped and warning lettering was painted in large letters on school buses. Several devices were developed to help school bus drivers warn other motorists.

Around 1946, one of the early (and possibly the first) systems of alternating traffic warning lights on school buses was used in Virginia. In those days before the advent of transistors and advanced plastic lens technology, an alternating system was created by using sealed beam headlight bulbs with the lenses colored red, and a mechanical motor and solenoids to alternate the high and low beam filaments in the single bulb fixtures mounted at the front and rear of the bus. School children and drivers were subjected to a loud tick-tock noise from the flasher motor as it was operating. Activation was through a mechanical switch attached to the door control.

Around this time, some states began specifying a mechanical stop arm which the driver could activate to swing out from the left side of the bus to warn traffic. The portion of the stop arm protruding in front of traffic had a sign bearing a warning message.

In later years, flashing lights were added to the stop arms, mechanical flasher devices were replaced by electronic ones, and the front and rear warning lights were increased from two to four and eventually eight (in most states). Plastic lenses were developed in the 1950s which offered greater visibility and significantly lower costs than the early systems which used colored headlight bulbs.

Many school districts are purchasing buses with two stop arms, the additional one located on the left side near the rear of the bus, for extra safety.

School bus stop laws

Main article: School bus traffic stop laws

School bus stop laws vary by locale and there is controversy regarding them and school bus safety.

Protecting children from their own bus

A major hazard to children riding school buses is being struck by their own bus. In the United States, approximately 2/3 of students killed outside a school bus are not struck by other vehicles, but by their own bus. [1] Recently, many buses have been equipped with wire or plastic arms which extend from the front bumper on the right side of the bus while it is stopped for loading/unloading. The purpose of the device is that children who need to cross the road will be forced to walk several feet forward of the front of the bus itself before they can begin to cross the road, thus ensuring that the bus driver can see them as they cross in front of the bus, avoiding a common blind spot immediately in front of the bus.

Key concepts

Laidlaw School Bus.
Laidlaw School Bus.

The key concepts for preventative measures are under the control of school bus drivers and their riders:

  • A stationary bus cannot run over a rider. In the morning, students should already be at a bus stop and standing stationary as a bus approaches, rather than running toward it as it approaches. Likewise, many school bus drivers avoid after-school loading hazards by arriving and positioning their buses for loading before dismissal whenever possible, so that buses are not moving as the students are dismissed and prepare to load.
  • A school bus driver will not run over a child he or she can see.
  • School bus drivers cannot accidentally run over children who are on board. If backing up or other traffic maneuvers are to take place at the same location as a bus stop, consider a routine to have the children on board while the movement is made.
  • Planned routines are safer than last-minute changes.
  • Riders should never run when approaching a school bus.
  • Get away from the area close to a bus when you get off.
  • Never immediately go back near a stopped bus to retrieve anything you may have dropped.
  • Avoid drawstrings on clothing and possessions which may get entangled while boarding or getting off the bus.

Danger zones

  • The area in front of a school bus has long been known as generally the most hazardous "danger zone". An increasingly sophisticated array of mirror systems have been developed to enable school bus drivers to see children who may otherwise have been obscured from view in what was long a "blind spot." Crossing gates (also called crossing arms) were developed to encourage those children crossing in front of a bus to move away from the bumper area and into an area with a better view of drivers. Additionally, there has also been a trend toward bus designs with less inherent blind spots at the front.
  • The second most dangerous zone is the area on the right side and at the right rear wheels. For this reason, many schools and parents provide safety instruction urging students:
    • When boarding, stay well away from the bus until it is fully stopped. Never approach a moving bus.
    • When leaving the bus, if not crossing the street or road, move away from the bus immediately after getting off, rather than walking closely along the side of it.
  • The third area of hazards are the loading doors. A drawstring or loose clothing may catch on something as a student gets off. If the driver isn't aware, the student may still be attached to the outside of the bus as it begins to pull away. To reduce the risk of this happening, school bus manufacturers have reduced the types of handles and equipment near the stepwell area, and children were urged to consider this risk factor when selecting clothing and accessories. Older students are at equal risk with younger ones in this regard.

Structural integrity

United States stamp depicting a school bus from the 1920s.
United States stamp depicting a school bus from the 1920s.

As the school bus evolved in the United States and Canada as a specialized vehicle, there became concerns for the protection of the school children during major impacts. A weak point and location of structural failure in catastrophic school bus crashes was well-known to be joints, the points where panels and pieces were fastened together.

Longitudinal steel guard rails had been in use since the 1930s to protect the sides of buses, but behind them on the sides and on the roofs, by the 1960s, all manufacturers were combining many individual steel panels to construct a bus body. These were usually attached by rivets or similar fasteners such as huckbolts.

Around 1967, Ward Body Company of Conway, Arkansas subjected one of their school bus bodies to multiple roll, and noted the separation at the joints, as well as pointing out that many of their competitors were using far fewer rivets. This resulted in new attention by all the body companies to the number and quality of fasteners.

Simply increasing the number of fasteners (rivets, screws, and huckbolts) was not enough to satisfy engineers at Wayne Corporation in Richmond, Indiana. In their tests, no matter how many fasteners were used, the joints were always the weak point under high stress loads. They also noted how the continuous guard rails used on the sides tended to spread the stress from a point of impact, allowing it to be shared and dissipated at portions of the body structure further away.

Instead of trying to figure out how to make the fasteners do a better job, they stood back and wondered if the design features of the guard rails could be expanded. The result was a revolutionary new design in school bus construction: Continuous longitudinal interior and exterior panels for the sides and roofs.

Branded the Lifeguard, the new school bus design used Wayne's huge roll-forming presses to make single steel pieces which extended the entire length of the bus body. The concept was that by reducing the number of joints, the number of places where the body could be anticipated to separate in a catastrophic impact was reduced in a like amount.

The "Lifeguard" design reduced overall body weight, the number of fasteners used, and man-hours required for assembly. However, it required the very large roll-form presses and special equipment to handle the panels. A more practical problem was the panels had to be cut to exact length for each bus body order, which varied with seating capacities and from state-to-state. This created a marketing disadvantage as the Wayne factory required greater manufacturing lead time than when parts were more interchangeable between orders under older panel technology.

In the years after Wayne introduced the Lifeguard design in the 1973 model year, competing body manufacturers began moving towards using fewer side panels and joints, although none went as far as Wayne in the 1970s.

Federal standards for school buses

The focus on structural integrity resulted in the joint requirements of the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses, most of which became applicable for school buses on April 1, 1977. The following, including Standard 221 (joint strength) are generally considered to be the most important, even 25 years later.

Standard No. 217 - Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release (Effective September 1, 1973) This standard establishes minimum requirements for bus window retention and release to reduce the likelihood of passenger ejection in crashes; and for emergency exits to facilitate passenger exit in emergencies. It also requires that each school bus have an interlock system which will prevent the engine from starting if an emergency door is unlocked and an audible warning system which will sound an alarm if an emergency door release mechanism is not closed while the engine is running.

Standard No. 220 - School Bus Rollover Protection (Effective April 1, 1977) This standard establishes performance requirements for school bus rollover protection. The purpose of this standard is to reduce the number of deaths and the severity of injuries that result from failure of the school bus body structure to withstand forces encountered in rollover crashes.

Standard No. 221 - School Bus Body Joint Strength (Effective April 1, 1977) This standard establishes requirements for the strength of the body panel joints in school bus bodies. The purpose of this standard is to reduce deaths and injuries resulting from the structural collapse of school bus bodies during crashes.

Standard No. 222 - School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection (Effective April 1, 1977) This standard establishes occupant protection requirements for school bus passenger seating and restraining barriers. The purpose of this standard is to reduce the number of deaths and the severity of injuries that result from the impact of school bus occupants against structures within the vehicle during crashes and sudden driving maneuvers.

Standard No. 301 - Fuel System Integrity - School Buses (Effective April 1, 1977) This standard specifies requirements for the integrity of motor vehicle fuel systems. Its purpose is to reduce deaths and injuries occurring from fires that may result from fuel spillage during and after motor vehicle crashes.

Continuing safety efforts since 1977

The new Federal Standards of 1977 for school buses represented a quantum leap in school bus safety. Other efforts and innovations were to continue.

More sophisticated and comprehensive mirror systems were developed to help drivers see children who were off the bus at almost all times.

Crossing gates were developed to help children avoid walking in the area immediately in front of the bus.

Reflective striping, LED and strobe lights were added in the 1980s and 1990s.

Modern school buses are often well equipped with amenities lacking only a few years ago such as air conditioning, two-way radios, high headroom roofs and wheelchair lifts (typically those with lifts are shorter than their counterparts and are sometimes exclusively assigned to carry disabled children).

Video cameras and recorders have become common equipment installed inside school buses, primarily to monitor (and record) behavior of the passengers. However, on March 28, 2000, a Murray County, Georgia, school bus was involved in a wreck with a CSX freight train at an unsignalled grade crossing, killing 3 children. Although the school bus driver claimed to have stopped and looked for approaching trains before proceeding across the tracks, the onboard camera clearly recorded that the bus had not stopped as it approached the tracks prior to the collision.

Seat belts in school buses

Compartmentalization was introduced in 1967, setting the ideal seat back height at 28 inches (although most seat heights are now 24 inches tall). The premise was that surrounding passengers with cushioning to the front and behind provide effective constraint in the event of a collision.

Although not an element of compartmentalization, the UCLA researchers who conducted the 1967 tests on school buses concluded that after high back seats, next in importance to school bus passenger collision safety is the "use of a three-point belt, a lap belt or other form of effective restraint."

Very few school buses have seat belts, a standard safety feature in cars and light duty passenger vehicles. In 1977, as provided in Standard 222, the federal government required passive restraint and structural integrity standards for school buses in lieu of requiring lap seat belts. In the 1980s, some districts in the US tried installing lap belts and then later removed them, claiming operational and passenger behavior problems. Whether lap belts should be required remains very controversial, although they are now required in at least 4 states (New York, New Jersey, California and Florida). However, only one state, New Jersey, requires seat belt usage.

Arguments Against Seat Belts

School buses have a very excellent safety record, and are among the safest forms of travel despite not having seat belts. School buses are heavy and move slowly; in the event of an accident, it cannot experience that same drastic change in speed and direction as smaller automobiles do (see Newton's laws of motion). Hence passengers are not thrown from their seats, unlike automobiles. [2]

It's a matter of cost-effectiveness. Most fatal injuries are of other types than those preventable by seat belts. Compartmentalization already provides an effective constraint system, and having seat belts is an unnecessary redundancy. At costs of $1500 per bus to install lap belts and more for 3-point belts, the money is simply better spent in other safety features. [3]

Lap belts can be unsafe for young children. In any case, seat belts are a hindrance in cases of rapid evacuation. If the children are unable to free themselves, it can quickly become a disaster as limited rescue personnel try to cut them free. Finally, there's the matter of children simply not using the seat belts, or more children per seat than are available seat belts.

Arguments For Seat Belts

One: The school bus safety record is incomplete: Regarding claims of current school bus compartmentalization being sufficient, you should be aware that most injuries received by children (that could have been directly prevented with the use of a seatbelt) go unreported; or more accurately they have no national tally being kept. There is a doctor in the Childrens Hospital of Cleveland who conducted a study (reported by Carl Castle on NPR early in 2006) who has documented proof of this. These injuries range from cuts and scrapes to broken bones.

Two: In the event of an accident a bus will fall off of a bridge just as quickly as any smaller automobile would, just as it will roll over with the same ferocious intensity and passengers will be thrown from their seats -- unlike automobiles which have seat belts installed in them.

Three: Cost effectiveness is always a controversial issue. Arguments for seat belts generally come from people who have an interest in the safety and welfare of the children that overrides any budget problems that would arise from the increased cost of the belts. Some parents would argue that even saving the life of one child justifies the increased costs of installing seat belts. Diminished seating capacity can be offset by purchasing additional buses, and safety should be a higher priority than saving money.

Four: Lap belt (2 point restraints) have been found to be unsafe for young children. Advocates for seat belts on buses want 3 point Shoulder/ harness style belts installed to protect their young ones. Every study that is touted by those against seat belts have one unadvertised flaw, they use lap belts, and the only tests performed involve Frontal impacts; side impacts and rollovers are ignored just as 3 point harnesses are. Studies showing the ineffectiveness of seat belts on school buses are flawed. Some believe Standard 222 was doctored by the NHTSA to meet other agendas. Others point to the use of lap belts over three-point belts, frontal crash tests over side impact tests, and the lack of rollover tests. All of these would have significantly improved the performance of seat belts versus compartmentalization. Studies have been conducted using three point belts by companies who manufacture them; these studies prove that the childs safety is greatly increased when using their product. (http://www.safeguardseat.com/) [4]

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_bus"