School bus travel is one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States. Every day, nearly 600,000 buses carry more than 25 million students to and from school and activities. Children are safer traveling in school buses than in any other vehicle.
Although school buses are extremely safe, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate school bus crashes in which fatalities and injuries occur. Improved oversight of school bus drivers and enhancements to school bus design—such as installation of passenger lap/shoulder belts, electronic stability control, and automatic emergency braking—could prevent or mitigate such crash outcomes.
In November 2016, the NTSB began the investigation of two multifatality crashes involving school buses. Each crash was initiated when the driver lost control of the school bus. In the November 1 crash in Baltimore, Maryland, the driver was epileptic and suffered a seizure. In the November 21 crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the driver was speeding while using a cell phone and ran off the road. In both cases, the school bus operators were private for-hire motor carriers performing contracted student transportation services. Although the specific safety issues differed, the crashes shared one common factor: poor driver oversight by both the school districts and the contracted motor carriers, which resulted in unsafe operation of the school buses.
This special investigation report focuses on:
School districts’ lack of oversight of student transportation service providers (Baltimore, Chattanooga).
Poor management of unsafe school bus drivers by motor carriers and school districts (Baltimore, Chattanooga).
Medically unfit school bus drivers (Baltimore).
Commercial driver license fraud in Maryland (Baltimore).
Large school bus occupant protection (Chattanooga).
Electronic stability control, automatic emergency braking, and event data recorders (Baltimore, Chattanooga).