Every Child a Graduate. Every Graduate Prepared.

ALSDE: Transportation - FAQs

Question:   What is a school bus "Danger Zone"?

Answer:   The Danger Zone is a 10-foot-wide area on each side of a school bus and a 12-foot–wide area in front and back of the school bus. These areas are where children are in the most danger of being hit. Children should stay 10 to 12 feet away from the bus (or as far away as they can) to be out of the Danger Zone and never go behind the bus. They should take five giant steps in front of the bus before crossing so the driver can see them. Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Question:   How safe is school bus transportation?

Answer:   School bus transportation is one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States. Every year, approximately 440,000 public school buses travel approximately 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities. Between 1988 and 1998, there were about 416,000 fatal traffic crashes in the United States. Of those, only 1,265 were classified as school bus-related. (NHTSA) Riding an Alabama school bus you are much less likely to be involved in a collision than riding in any other type of vehicle. If involved in a collision, you are much less likely to suffer an injury. School buses are involved in only 3/10 of one percent of all Alabama accidents. Alabama school bus drivers are among the best trained in the United States. State law requires all drivers to hold a Commercial Driver License (CDL) and an Alabama School Bus Driver Certificate. State and Federal laws require background checks and random drug testing for bus drivers. Alabama school buses are among the safest and best maintained in the country. Under Alabama law, school buses are inspected monthly by local system personnel and annually by state school bus inspectors employed by the Alabama Department of Education. Nationally, a school bus is 172 times safer than a passenger car, 8 times safer than a passenger train or scheduled airline, and 4 times safer than a transit bus.

Question:   What is a school bus-related crash?

Answer:   A school bus-related crash involves, either directly or indirectly, a school bus-type of vehicle, or a vehicle functioning as a school bus, transporting children to or from school or school-related activities. (NHTSA)

Question:   Do all school buses have safety belts?

Answer:   No. Rather than requiring safety belts, the NHTSA decided that the best way to provide crash protection for children on a school bus is through a concept called "compartmentalization." Compartmentalization provides a safety zone by using strong, closely spaced seats, energy-absorbing seat backs, and padding to protect school children if a crash occurs. Additionally, school buses must conform to other stringent safety standards required by the federal government and the State of Alabama. In addition to compartmentalization requirements, these standards include requirements for rollover protection, joint and roof strength, fuel system integrity, and a host of other safety features. Since statistically more injuries occur outside the school bus, not inside the bus, the Federal Government has not set a standard or guideline supporting the use of seat belts.

Question:   What is the maximum number of children that can safely sit on a school bus seat?

Answer:   Federal regulations do not specify the number of children that can safely sit on a school bus seat. However, in determining the maximum seating capacity of a school bus, school bus manufacturers base their determination on seating three small elementary school-age children on a typical 39-inch school bus seat. (NHTSA)

Question:   What can motorists do to help ensure the safety of students riding school buses?

Answer:   For 23.5 million students nationwide and 374,000 Alabama students, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. Students' greatest risk is not in riding the bus, but in getting to the bus or entering or leaving it. Motorists need to be aware of the risks. (NHTSA) Follow these safety steps: · When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school. · When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch for children traveling to school. They are unpredictable in their actions, and it is your responsibility to anticipate and react to what they might do. · Drive slowly. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood. · Watch for children playing and gathering near school bus stops. · Be alert. Children arriving late for a school bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic. · Never pass on the right side of a school bus where children enter or exit. This is illegal. · Learn the flashing light system that school bus drivers use to alert motorists about stopping: o Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop and load or unload children. Motorists need to slow down and prepare to stop. o Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm mean the bus has stopped and children are boarding or exiting the bus. Motorists must come to a complete stop a safe distance from the bus and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the stop arm is retracted, and the bus begins moving before they start driving again.

Question:   How many school buses are in operation in Alabama?

Answer:   Approximately 9,000 buses are used by Alabama’s public school systems. On average, 10 - 20% of these buses are spares. Most of these buses are 71-72 passenger vehicles with diesel engines, automatic transmissions and weigh approximately 13-15 tons.

Question:   How many students ride Alabama buses?

Answer:   Over 374,000 students ride Alabama buses to and from school each day, traveling over 442,000 miles. This calculates to over 67 million student riding annually and traveling approximately 80 million miles.

Question:   Are buses retired after a certain time?

Answer:   There is no requirement to “retire” school buses after so many years in the state of Alabama. However, most school systems remove their buses from regular service after about ten years. The Alabama Fleet Renewal Program provides local school systems funding for each school bus in their fleet that is ten years old or less. This funding is provided for a maximum of ten years. Over 96% of Alabama's school buses are ten years old or less.

Question:   How can I find out the safety record for school buses in my school system?

Answer:   All school systems can provide accident information on their school buses. Contact the local transportation supervisor. Additionally, the Alabama Department of Education maintains records on accidents involving school buses.

Question:   What training is offered to bus drivers?

Answer:   Training for new school bus drivers is provided by each local school system. School systems screen and train potential drivers after which the driver must attend a twelve-hour school bus driver class conducted by the SDE. During this class drivers receive additional training from the Alabama School Bus Driver Handbook provided by SDE instructors. Drivers must successfully complete a written test and performance test following this class to receive an Alabama School Bus Driver Certificate. Drivers must also complete four hours of SDE training annually in order to maintain their certification. Additional in-service training is provided each year by local school systems.

Question:   Why should students take Driver Education?

Answer:   There are many advantages to taking an Alabama State Department of Education (SDE) approved Driver Education class. First and foremost would be the opportunity for a teenage driver to begin the quest to become a knowledgeable and responsible driver. An approved driver education course will consist of 30 hours of in-class instructions on a wide variety of topics. These include: · Highway License Requirements · Traffic Laws · Responsible Vehicle Ownership · Basic Driving Procedures and Maneuvers · Factors Related to Youthful Drivers · Physical and Mental Impairments · Interaction with Other Highway Users · Driving in Different Environments and Under Varied Weather Conditions · Boating Safety Additionally, the driver education class offers actual driving experience under the supervision of a certified driver education instructor. The Behind-The-Wheel phase of driver education is a performanced-based evaluation of the following skills: · Pre-start procedures · Basic car control · Right and left turns · Turnabouts, particularly the 3-point turnabout that is a part of the driver’s license test. · Parking maneuvers · Entering and exiting freeways (where available) · Maneuvering through controlled and uncontrolled intersections · Passing, merging, and lane changing procedures · Driving in varied environments · Traffic observation with emphasis on the SIPDE (search, identify, predict, decide, execute) process and the Smith System As optional instruction some school systems offer driving simulation and multi-vehicle driving range. An added bonus of successfully completing an approved driver education course might be a reduction in automobile insurance. Many insurance companies offer discounts ranging from five percent up to 20 percent to students who successfully complete the course.

Question:   Is Driver Education offered at every high school?

Answer:   Driver education is an elective class at high schools in Alabama. Schools that do not have an adequate number of students registering for driver education do not offer the course. Currently 98 percent of all school systems have driver education as a part of their high school curriculum.

Question:   Does a student have to have a learner’s license in order to take driver education and receive behind-the-wheel instruction?

Answer:   No learner’s license is required for students who are: · enrolled in a state approved driver education program, · who are driving pursuant to an instructional program, and · accompanied by a certified driver education instructor. Students enrolled in a driver education course without a valid learner’s license should meet minimum health standards to operate a motor vehicle as outlined on the application of an Alabama driver license.

Question:   What is the Graduated Drivers License law?

Answer:   The Graduated Drivers License (GDL) law, Act No. 2002-408, became effective October 1, 2002. The law provides for certain restrictions on the issuance of drivers’ licenses for persons under 18 years of age; to provide for restrictions on the operation of motor vehicles under certain conditions; to provide for the suspension of the driver’s license of a person under age 18 who is convicted of certain serious traffic offenses or multiple traffic offenses. For a complete copy of the GDL please go the SDE Web site at www.alsde.edu, then to sections, on the pop-out menu go to pupil transportation and driver education, then click on publications.

Question:   How can an individual become a certified driver education instructor?

Answer:   Since 1998, the SDE has offered preliminary certification courses in driver education. The prerequisite for this class is to already hold a valid Alabama teaching certificate in any field. The course consists of two, 40-hour classes of basic and advanced driver education. Once an individual successfully completes these courses and has a teaching position in driver education, the local school system’s superintendent can request preliminary certification though the SDE’s Teacher Certification Section. After the individual has satisfactorily taught driver education for two years in the same school system, the local school system’s superintendent can request professional certification for that individual. A professional certificate, with a G-3 endorsement, would then be issued. The course is offered through universities throughout Alabama who award six graduate credit hours for the courses. The University of Montevallo also offers certification in Driver and Traffic Safety Education.

Question:   What is the Third-Party Testing program and how can a driver education instructor become certified for this program?

Answer:   The Third-Party Testing program is in response to Act No. 2000-241 which allows driver education instructors to be a designated third-party testing agent of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to administer the driving portion of the licensing exam. The SDE offers an eight-hour certification class that is taught at various sites throughout the state. Through this program, certified driver education instructors can become authorized to administer the driver license skills test. SDE will continually monitor the Third-Party programs for accuracy and reliability.

Question:   What is the 80/20 match program offered by SDE for driver education cars.

Answer:   This is a program designed to aid school systems in providing vehicles for their driver education classes. In this program local school systems can apply for a grant. Upon approval they can then purchase a vehicle from the Alabama Department of Transportations’ motor pool. Once purchased the local school system requests reimbursement for 80 percent of the total cost of the vehicle, and the SDE will then reimburse the local school system.