Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL) from today’s hearing entitled, “Examining the Federal Role in Improving School Bus Safety”:
Today, the Subcommittee will focus on school bus safety as part of our ongoing work to reauthorize federal surface transportation programs and policies. With nearly 500,000 school buses transporting more than 25 million school-aged children to and from school each day, school bus safety is an important part of this discussion.
Statistics show that the school bus is the safest and most regulated vehicle on the road. In fact, according to the American School Bus Council, children are 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus when compared to walking, biking, or traveling by car.
With that said, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) most recent estimates indicate that school bus crashes account for approximately 0.4 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide. No matter how safe the statistics show school buses are, we unfortunately see approximately four to six school-aged children die each year on the school bus, and another 10 to 15 die as a result of cars illegally passing stopped school buses.
Each fatality resulting from a school bus crash is more than a statistic. Just this last December, in my congressional district outside of Bloomington-Normal, we saw a tragic accident where a truck collided with a school bus transporting a local basketball team home from a game. Two adults lost their lives in the accident, and nine others were injured, including eight students. As we work to reauthorize surface transportation programs and policies, it’s my hope we can address school bus safety in a bipartisan manner that prevents such instances from occurring in the future.
Looking at that work, this subcommittee has jurisdiction over two agencies that play an important role in school bus safety – NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
NHTSA sets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school bus safety features, provides in-service training for bus drivers, and develops public awareness campaigns related to school bus safety. The other, FMCSA, establishes rules for commercial driver licensing and requires school bus drivers to have a CDL with a special school bus endorsement.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about ways that we can make our school-aged children safer as they wait for, load and unload, and ride a school bus.
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