A few days ago, we took the annual trip to our elementary school to see the posted list of classes for the coming school year that starts next week! Lots of kids were elated to find they got the teacher they wanted or a best friend in their class. A number were sad because they didn’t. Most were happy to see friends they missed over the summer.
For parents, it’s back to the routine again. Our kids take a bus, as their school turns out to be twice as far as the closest schools due to the zoning maps. On the plus side, it’s a great school so we don’t complain about it. Plus, we all know that full size school buses are the safest form of ground transportation. Right?
Studies have shown that the fatality rate for school buses is many times lower than passenger cars (including trucks, suvs and minivans). The reasons are pretty simple, even though most elementary school and older kids ride without seatbelts on large buses. The sheer size and mass of the bus is a factor. Their visibility is another. Trained drivers who drive the same route every day help, too.
But what about that soccer mom (or in my case soccer dad) driving the kids to school in a newer vehicle? Keep in mind that the overall fatality rate used for cars in such studies includes everyone. The vast majority of these fatalities are to passengers who are unrestrained or improperly restrained. Many more are because the driver was impaired, while some were distracted. Others were to those in older cars that lacked the crash avoidance, safety features and crashworthiness that newer cars have.
So what about my kids? I drive a very safe minivan with top crash test results and a full set of safety features. I never drive impaired (and try to avoid that cell phone whenever possible!). I know that my kids are correctly restrained in the rear seat. I know the route to school and have a great driving record. I’ve now significantly reduced the risk to my kids compared those national averages used in comparing cars to school buses.
I have a hunch that all things considered, my kids would be much closer to the safety of a school bus if I drove them to school in our 2006 Honda Odyssey. Even so, I’ve only driven to school a handful of times over the past 5 years, usually because we were a little late or had to bring something that we didn’t want the kids to carry on the bus. I really have no qualms about either method of transporting them to school. Either way, I know they are very safe. It sure would be nice to have some relevant statistics to prove it, of course. Without such proof, the school bus still reigns supreme. In addition, things might be a lot different if they were riding in someone else’s car!