Every year, school buses carry millions of kids to and from school. Previous studies have indicated that about 5,500 children are injured on buses each year, but new research suggests that injury rates may be more than three times higher.
Researchers working with the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), used a national injury database to identify all nonfatal school bus–related injuries from 2001 to 2003. For each injury case, they noted:
- the age of the injured child
- whether he or she was riding on, getting on, getting off, or standing near the bus at the time of injury
- the reason the child was injured, such as a motor vehicle crash or slip/fall
- the severity of the injury and the body part injured
The results showed that each year, nearly 17,000 school bus–related injuries take place. Most school bus–related injuries are minor — 97% of children are treated and released from the hospital.
Injuries occurred most often in kids 10 to 14 years of age, which researchers suggest is because younger children may be more likely to be driven to school and older teens may be more likely to drive themselves. In addition, motor vehicle crashes accounted for more than 42% of all injury cases. Injuries that occurred as the child got on or got off the bus accounted for almost 24% of injury cases. In kids younger than 10, head injuries were most common, but in those between the ages of 10 and 19, injuries to the legs, ankles, and feet predominated.
The most school bus injuries occurred in September and October, followed by March and April.
What This Means to You
According to the results of this study, school bus injuries tend to be minor, and if they require medical treatment, they rarely lead to hospital admissions. However, that doesn't mean kids should skip the school bus safety lesson. To keep them safe on the bus, make sure kids know to:
- Get in line while waiting. The line for the bus should be about 10 feet from the curb.
- Wait until the bus stops. Once the bus driver opens the door and says it's OK, kids can board.
- Stay seated at all times. If the bus has seat belts, kids should use them.
- Listen to the bus driver.
- On exit, never walk behind the bus.
- Make sure that the driver sees students who have to cross the street.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2006
Source: Jennifer McGeehan, MPH; Joseph L. Annest, PhD; Madhavi Vajani, MPH; Marilyn J. Bull, MD; Phyllis E. Agran, MD, MPH; Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH; Pediatrics, November 2006.