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Bus Safety – Frequently Asked Questions

On the Bus

My child is in the Walk Zone, but the walk to school is not safe. Who should I speak to about that?

If you believe that the walk-zone is unsafe, express your concern to the Transportation Area Manager of that school.

Why are the seats so close together?

The seats were re-designed to specific spacing, with full padding front and back and increased back height for maximum impact protection. The newly designed seats provide a padded cavity for passenger compartmentalization. Crash tests prove this to be the most effective protection on impact.

Why are the 39-inch seats on school buses said to fit three children when they will only fit two?

The rated capacity of a 39-inch wide passenger seat was devised many years ago. In determining seating capacity on a bus, an allowable average width standard was established. Accordingly, 13 inches was suggested with three students per seat (three students if elementary; for middle and high school students, loads are adjusted).

What if my child’s bus is over crowded?

COMAR 13A.06.07.13 states:

School vehicles shall be routed so that all students are seated and loads do not exceed the manufacturer’s rated capacity. If an emergency situation creates an overload, this condition shall be corrected within a reasonable time.

The manufacturer’s rated capacity for most of the regular route buses used to transport Howard County Public School System students is 64 passengers. An increasing number of regular route buses are rated for 72 passengers. These rated capacities are based on every bench seating three students. Following Maryland state law and manufacturer’s capacity ratings, PTO procedures allow for the possibility of three students to a bench when routing buses. Special needs buses shall have a minimum rated capacity of 42 passengers. The PTO may consider evaluating a route change when the following thresholds have been exceeded:

  • Elementary School Regular Route Loads: 53 passengers
  • Middle School Regular Route Loads: 50 passengers
  • High School Regular Route Loads: 45 passengers
  • Specialized Route Loads: 14 ambulatory passengers and 2 wheelchair passengers

The following are target loads for the efficient use of buses in Howard County:

  • Elementary School Regular Route Loads:
    • Rated Capacity of 64 (11 row bus): 40 to 48 students
    • Rated Capacity of 72 (12 row bus): 43 to 50 students
  • Middle School Regular Route Loads:
    • Rated Capacity of 64 (11 row bus): 38 to 46 students
    • Rated Capacity of 72 (12 row bus): 43 to 50 students
  • High School Regular Route Loads:
    • Rated Capacity of 64 (11 row bus): 35 to 44 students
    • Rated Capacity of 72 (12 row bus): 40 to 48 students
  • Specialized Route Loads: 14 Ambulatory students and 2 wheelchair students

Why aren’t there seat belts on buses? Are they safe?

Our buses are held to the highest standards of construction to provide the safest method to transport our students. School bus transportation is the safest form of travel in the United States with over 24 million students transported daily nationwide on 450,000 buses traveling over 4.3 billion miles per year. Over a 10-year period, only one third of one percent of all fatal crashes involved a student on a school bus. School bus safety is based on closely spaced and padded seats on a large framed vehicle, as mandated by federal law. The State of Maryland has additional requirements, including a limit on the life of the vehicle.

Can all my kids/my kids friends sit together on the bus?

Yes, it is sometimes possible. If the children are in line together, they have a greater chance of finding seats together or near each other.

Does the bus driver assign seats?

The bus driver may assign seats as he/she feels necessary to maintain order and safety on the bus.

Can my child bring musical instruments, school projects, or other large items with them on the bus?

Musical Instruments and large objects are permitted on the school bus as long as the student can carry the instrument or object on and off of the bus by him/herself. They must be placed in the student’s lap or stored between the student’s legs and the barrier in front of the student. Instruments or large objects cannot block the aisle. Large instruments such as drum kits, cellos (greater than quarter size) and upright basses are too large to be transported safely on school buses. If you are unsure, please check with your child’s school before bringing a large musical instrument or object to the bus stop

Bullying and Misbehavior

Who should I call to report problems on my child’s bus?

If the problem pertains to the behavior of students, please contact the school your child attends. If the problem pertains to the driver, please contact the Transportation Office at 410-313-6732.

My child has been bullied on the bus. What can I do?

HCPSS has a policy that specifically prohibits bullying at school, during school events and field trips, and on a school bus. The bus driver’s main focus must be on operating the school bus safely. As a result, the majority of the driver’s attention is focused on the road and traffic conditions, so he/she may not see or hear inappropriate behavior among the students on the bus when it occurs. HCPSS now has four cameras on each of our school buses, which will allow us to monitor student behavior and to reduce any bullying that may occur by dealing with it swiftly and objectively. Students who engage in bullying or harassing behaviors are subject to disciplinary action. Please report any problems to your child’s school so that appropriate steps may be taken.

My child has misbehaved on the bus. Does the bus driver have the right to discipline him/her?

The school bus driver (or attendant) is responsible for the safe operation of the bus. He/she should receive the same level of respect afforded to a classroom teacher, assistant or other school employee. When necessary, drivers or attendants may correct a student. In most cases, that resolves the problem. If the misconduct continues, the driver may complete a bus conduct report to notify the school of the event for further review and, if appropriate, disciplinary action.

What’s a “bus conduct report”?

A bus conduct report is used to report a student whose violation of safety rules on the bus may cause harm to the student, to another student or to the public. This includes actions that distract the bus driver’s attention from the roadway. If a bus conduct report is completed for a student, the school staff members will contact the student’s family if they need to speak to the parent or guardian as part of the disciplinary steps taken to resolve the problem.

Drivers

I don’t like my child’s bus driver. Can I request a different one?

Bus drivers and attendants are professionally trained and supervised. We do not remove staff from routes without an investigation in accordance with our personnel policies and procedures. If you have a concern, please call the Pupil Transportation Office at 410-313-6732.

My child and I really liked one driver, but they were reassigned to a different route. Could we get the driver back?

HCPSS recognizes and appreciates that students often bond and develop relationships with staff, and we try to have drivers and attendants remain on the same routes for extended periods of time. However, in some cases, drivers or attendants may be transferred to other routes.

I witnessed a concern with a bus driver’s driving. How can I report this to the HCPSS?

Please make a note of the location and time of the incident and, most important, the bus number, posted on the side, front and rear of the vehicle. Call 410-313-6732 and ask for an area manager.

What kind of process do the drivers go through to make sure they are qualified and safe to be around children?

Applicants must have a commercial drivers license. Applicants are fingerprinted and have a criminal background check performed. The also have their driving records examined, participate in USDOT drug and alcohol tests (including pre-employment and random testing), and DOT physicals. New drivers are required to go through over 30 hours of training to ensure they are qualified and safe. View more Information

How can I apply to become a bus driver?

Contact the Transportation Office at 410-313-6732. You will be provided all of the proper information and requirements necessary to pursue employment with the HCPSS as a bus driver.