The events in Chattanooga are tragic, and we are in mourning with our friends and family in that community. No words can ever make this right, but we stand with Hamilton County and are ready to help in any way we can.
We also know this tragedy raises several questions among parents and community members about the safety of school buses. Student and staff safety are always our number one priority, and that includes on the school bus. The information below describes the safety measures in place every day in Metro Schools.
If you have additional questions, please feel free to reach out to our Family Information Center by calling (615) 259-INFO (4636), emailing FamilyInfo@mnps.org or by using the live chat feature on MNPS.org.
Metro Schools operates a fleet of nearly 700 school buses, which transport 51,000 students to and from school each day.
School Bus Safety
- A school bus is one of the safest vehicles on the road. It’s weight, size and design – both inside and out – all contribute to its safety.
- Even the bright yellow color is designed for safety, as it makes the school bus the most easily visible and recognizable vehicle on the road.
- Statistically speaking, children are safer going to school on a bus than being driven by a parent.
- All school buses undergo safety inspections from the Tennessee Department of Safety at least once per year. There are also surprise inspections regularly. Even the smallest violation can cause a bus to be removed from service.
- Because of the large number of buses in Metro Schools, a full-time safety inspector works at the district’s Transportation Center who does nothing but inspect Metro school buses.
- Every Metro school bus is equipped with multiple cameras and a GPS system so we can monitor and review bus driver safety. Using these devices, we can see if drivers are speeding, taking tight corners, accelerating too quickly and using other unsafe driving practices.
- They also help in accident reconstruction, so we can do a thorough investigation of each incident and take the proper steps for resolution.
- Every accident or incident involving a school bus, no matter how minor, must be fully reported and investigated. That includes everything from a traffic accident to the side mirror accidentally brushing a mailbox or tree branch.
- All permanent Metro school bus drivers are employees of Metro Schools, not a private contractor. The only contracted drivers we use are for substitute driving, and those are almost all experienced, retired drivers who fill in for open routes on a temporary basis.
- All drivers must have commercial driver’s licenses with the P (passenger) and S (school bus) endorsements, which come with strict standards for training and testing.
- The district’s driver training program is thorough, lasting between four and six weeks depending on a driver’s previous experience. Each driver trainee must take classes taught by Metro Schools Transportation staff, practice on a driver training course and get on-the-road experience under supervision of an instructor.
- Drivers are allowed to carry children on-board only after successfully passing the course and getting supervised experience on the road.
- Following decades of guidance and recommendations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), school buses have been specially designed to be safe with or without the use of seat belts.
- School buses use a concept called “compartmentalization,” which essentially means the seats on a school bus provide safe spaces for students during a crash.
- With high backs, energy absorbing cushions and close spacing, school bus seats are designed as a protective envelope so that children will be safely constrained in an accident.
- In Tennessee, large school buses (over 10,000 pounds) are not required to have seat belts. Large buses in Metro Schools do not have seat belts.
- However, the 219 2016 and 2017 model school buses in the Metro Schools fleet do have built-in child seats in the first two rows. These are designed only for very small children, such as four-year-olds going to prekindergarten, and are intended mainly to keep children seated while the bus is moving.
- Small school buses (under 10,000 pounds), which are generally those used for special education transportation, do have lap and shoulder belts and are often equipped with special harnesses for holding wheelchairs in place.
- There are concerns about seat belt safety and how consistently seat belts would be used given the large number of children on a bus and the single driver responsible for them all.
- In the event of an emergency, one driver would be responsible for ensuring that up to 70 children are safely removed from their seatbelts and able to evacuate quickly.
- Retrofitting existing school buses with seat belts would be extremely difficult, as there are strict structural requirements for seat belts that our buses were not built for. In many cases, the cost of retrofitting is more than the value of the bus itself.