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October 13, 2006

Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Commissioner Winn Announces School Bus Safety Week

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner John L. Winn today announced October 15-21, 2006, as Florida School Bus Safety Week. This year’s theme, "I see the driver – the driver sees me," reminds students how to stay safe when they are getting on or off the bus or crossing the road. Motorists are also reminded they must stop for school buses when loading or unloading students.

"We are committed to providing a safe public school transportation environment for our students," said Commissioner Winn. "Florida school buses traveled more than 300 million miles last year with only 209 reported injuries, most of which did not require medical treatment. This is a testament to our dedicated team of professionals who do everything they can to ensure the safety of our most precious cargo – our children."

The yellow school bus is one of the safest modes of transportation for students. School buses must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, as well as Florida School Bus Specifications. Recent improvements to bus safety include fire-retardant seating, antilock braking systems, reflective materials on the exterior of the bus, improved lighting and many others.

Florida’s school transportation system is the fifth largest in the United States. In 2005-06, 15,600 Florida school buses traveled more than 303 million miles and transported more than one million passengers each day. Nationwide, 24.4 million elementary and secondary students ride school buses every day.

One of the most important safety features is "compartmentalization," whereby the seats in school buses are spaced close together, with high seat backs and specially designed cushions to absorb crash forces and protect the occupants. Additionally, all Florida school buses purchased since 2000 must be equipped with two-point lap seat belts, with more than 8,500 seat belt equipped buses now in service.

Florida works in partnership with the Departments of Transportation and Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Florida Association for Pupil Transportation, as well as local traffic safety teams, school districts and law enforcement to provide a safe, accident-free environment for students. School buses provide a level of safety eight times greater per vehicle mile than passenger cars.

The United States and Canada are the only two major countries in the world that provide purpose-built buses meeting special safety standards and requirements and have specially trained drivers for transportation of public school students. Florida bus drivers are required to pass pre-employment and periodic criminal background checks and drug and alcohol tests. In addition, they hold a Commercial Driver License with a special School Bus Endorsement.

Improved bus safety features also include enhanced safety and comfort for bus drivers. Tilting and telescoping steering wheels, high-back air suspension seats, remotely adjustable mirror systems, reduced pedal effort, improved diesel noise reduction and heat insulation are among many recent upgrades. In addition, more than 90 percent of new buses are ordered with air conditioning as optional equipment. School buses also contribute to energy savings and public health by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Buses are also now smokeless, producing significantly lower airborne exhaust emissions under stringent federal standards.

Florida continues to make improvements in bus safety, ranging from enhanced bus equipment specifications to sponsorship of meetings providing safety workshops for local transportation staff at all levels. The state’s mission is provide leadership, training and assistance to school districts in transporting students safely throughout Florida.