The University of Alabama (UA) conducted a three-year project for the Governor’s Study Group on School Bus Seat Belts and the Alabama State Department of Education. The project explored the implementation of lap/shoulder belts on newly purchased large school buses. It included topics like the rate of seat belt use, the effects on bus discipline, the attitudes of stakeholders, the loss of capacity attributable to seat belts, the cost effectiveness of the belts, and other pertinent issues. A list of some of the most pertinent study findings follows:
- In 2009-10, 7,341 Alabama route school buses averaged 51 pupils each and traveled 457,258 miles daily (82.3 million miles annually).
- Pupil deaths inside school buses are rare in Alabama. Since 1977, when major advancements were made to school bus safety, there have been only five fatalities (in two crashes) for pupils riding inside school buses at the time the crash occurred.
- School buses are the safest form of transportation to school. Students are six to eight times safer riding to school in a school bus than riding to school in their parents’ cars.
- Nationally, up to three times more school bus-related pupil deaths take place outside the bus (loading/unloading) than inside the bus.
- Stakeholders (parents, children, drivers, aides, and transportation supervisors) believe school buses are already safe and adding seat belts will make them safer.
- School bus drivers cannot see pupils as well in buses equipped with seat belts due to the taller seatbacks required for seat belts. They are concerned this will lead to increased discipline problems, for which they may be held responsible.
- Based on 170,000 observations of pupils in pilot-project buses, this project established an average rate of seat belt use of 61.5%.
- Adding seat belts increases the thickness of seatbacks, leading to fewer rows of seats. Also, the fixed spacing between seat belt buckle latches negates the option of placing three small pupils or two large pupils on a seat, leading to the loss of one seat per row.
- This study found thicker seatbacks and fixed buckle spacing could cause capacity losses of5% to 18%, depending on the configuration of seats and rows. The bus fleet would need to expand 5% to 18% to offset the capacity loss.
- A cost-effectiveness study was performed using the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration methodology. two metrics were calculated:
- The cost of an “equivalent life saved” from seat belt implementation in Alabama is $32 million to $38 million.
- The “net benefits” for seat belt implementation over one fleet life cycle are -$104million to -$125 million. The net benefits are negative because the costs exceed the benefits. This suggests using more cost-effective safety measures rather than implementing seat belts across the large-school bus fleet.
Most school bus pupil fatalities occur outside buses in or near loading zones. If funding is to be spent on school bus safety, it appears more lives could be saved by investing in enhanced safety measures in loading/unloading zones. These treatments are likely more cost effective than seat belts, and this report includes several examples.
These are some of the most common general questions relative to pupil transportation in Ohio.
Q1 What are the state laws for transporting children in my district?
A1 Laws for pupil transportation in Ohio may be located in both, Ohio Administrative Code and Ohio Revised Code. Because this question is very broad, it might be helpful to know what your specific concern relates to so we can direct you to a specific section or resource.
Q2 What does it mean if my district intends to go to ‘state minimum’
A2 State minimum transportation means a district intends to only transport those students in grades K-8 who reside more than 2.0 miles from school. With state
minimum transportation, high school transportation does not have to be provided;however, a shuttle from the high school to a member vocational school is
required. In addition, districts would still have an obligation to transport those students with special needs as identified in those students’ IEPs
.Q3 If our district reduces service to “state minimum” levels, are we still obligated to provide transportation service to a vocational school site?
A3 Districts are obligated by Ohio law to provide a shuttle from the public high school to the site of the vocational school, regardless of what transportation
service levels are provided for other students in the district.
Q4 If my children are not eligible for school bus transportation, may I pay the district to transport them to and from school?
A4 No. Ohio law does not permit school districts to charge pupils for transportation service to and from school.
Q5 Is a violation of the Ohio Pupil Transportation Operation and Safety Rules also a violation of Ohio law? If yes, what is the penalty?
A5 Yes. The penalty for violation of the Ohio Pupil Transportation Operation and Safety Rules is a Minor Misdemeanor but may be escalated to a Misdemeanor of the 4th Degree. Any law enforcement agency in Ohio has the power to enforce the operation and safety rules.
Q6 What is the maximum time a student may ride the school bus in Ohio?
A6 There is no identified target number that districts are obligated to meet. It is up to each school district to manage the length of time students ride the bus. Ride
times vary by traffic; locality and numerous other criteria—each school district’s ride times can be different.
Q7 I do not like the length of time my child rides the bus. How can I be paid to transport my child to school instead?
A7 If a school district offers transportation service, but the service is not to the liking of a parent or legal guardian, the law does not permit the district to offer a choice of payment-in-lieu of transportation. Payment-in-lieu of transportation is only offered to a parent for an instance where the district’s Board of Education
declares transportation to be impractical.
Typically, questions relating to bus stops, placement, a student’s assignment to a particular bus stop must be directed to the transportation department at a school district.
Q1 I cannot see my child's bus stop from the house. Are there state laws that set the standards for bus stop location?
A1 No law requires a parent to see the bus stop from home. Students in Ohio may be assigned to a bus stop up to one-half mile from their home and we encourage parents to accompany their child to the bus stop whenever possible. This teaches the child safe habits of walking to and from the bus stop and may give the parent peace of mind. Bus stop locations are determined by each district's board of education
Q2 Are sidewalks required for my child to get to his/her bus stop?
A2 Many students walk alongside of roadways to reach their bus stop and in some instances no sidewalks exist. While we understand this may be of concern in some situations, the Department of Education does not promulgate bus stop placement. Issues relating to where a child's bus stop is located and safety
concerns along the way to the bus stop must be addressed with the district in which you reside.
Q3 I make my child wait inside of my house until the bus is at the stop. I have heard this is not allowed - is this true?
A3 Ohio law requires children to be waiting at the bus stop prior to its arrival. Bus drivers count the students at the bus stop before they load and as they get on the
bus to ensure all children are safely on board.If students are not waiting at the bus stop the bus driver cannot count them and cannot be certain the students are all safely on board. Waiting at the bus stop before the bus arrives further ensures that no one chases after the bus - this is a very dangerous thing to do.
Many districts also instruct their buses to not stop at locations where no students are waiting
In nearly every situation, a student’s IEP dictates what type of transportation service the student will receive—if any. Parents are strongly encouraged to work with the student’s IEP team to identify special transportation needs.
Q1 My child has an IEP but transportation is not being provided. Why is this?
A1 A child who has an IEP does not automatically receive transportation unless the IEP team writes this into the related services. If transportation is not included on the IEP your child will be transported similarly toregular education students in your district.
VEHICLES OTHER THAN SCHOOL BUSES
In certain circumstances, students may be transported in vehicles other than school buses. For most, this is done in a van.
Q1 Are larger vans legal for use in Ohio? We wish to buy a 12 passenger van but the dealership tells me he cannot sell anything larger than a vehicle designed at the factory for nine persons or less, excluding the driver.
A1 It is not legal for anyone to transport students in a vehicle designed at the factory for more than nine passengers excluding the driver Dealers are not permitted to sell these ‘larger’ vans to educating agencies.
Q2 Which students may be transported in vans or vehicles other than school buses?
A2 Only students in preschool; those having special needs; and those enrolled in alternative schools may be transported by van or vehicles other than school
buses. Regular education students may only be transported by this method for athletic and extracurricular trips.
NONROUTINE USE OF SCHOOL BUSES
School buses are often used to transport students to events other than school.
Q1 Where can I find the rules on legal nonroutine uses of school buses?
A1 OAC 3301-83-16
Q2 Do the out-of-state travel rules for school buses also apply to other district owned vehicles used to transport students?
A2 Yes. Ohio Administrative Code 3301-83-16(E) states that “Any (emphasis added) out-of-state travel shall remain within two hundred forty miles round-trip
distance from the point of exit from the state to the point of entry to the state.”There are no exceptions to this rule. If a district wishes to take students to a destination that is further than what is permissible by this rule, they must seek an alternative method of travel to ensure compliance with the law. For example, a district might use a motor coach company to transport students to the destination and then rent a van once they have arrived at the destination. Commercial carrier is the only legal mode of travel to a destination that is further than two hundred forty miles round-trip from