By Jessica Dahlberg
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – February isn’t just about flowers and pink hearts, or African American history. Now it’s about big tires and yellow school buses, too.
Last week, the House joined the Senate in designating February as “Love the Bus Month.” It’s part of a national campaign by the American School Bus Council to show appreciation for school bus drivers and raise public awareness about school bus safety.
The campaign kept rolling Thursday as bus drivers and schoolchildren from across Virginia gathered at the state Capitol for the second annual “Love the Bus” rally.
“We’ve been planning this rally for six months,” said Amber Shipp, a Love the Bus planning committee member. “It’s a lot bigger than last year with a much better turn out.”
The rally followed the General Assembly’s unanimous approval of Senate Joint Resolution 297, which formally recognizes Virginia’s 14,000 school bus drivers who transport more than 900,000 children to and from school each day.
David Pace, the chairman for the Love the Bus committee and a member of Virginia Association for Pupil Transportation, has been coordinating Love the Bus rallies at the Capitol.
“The resolution getting passed means a lot to us,” Pace said. “People need to be aware of the bus and the importance of the bus. Kids couldn’t get to and from school without the yellow school bus.”
The rally featured performances from an elementary school chorus and a Pulaski County Public Schools theater group that put on a Wizard of Oz bus-themed skit.
The event highlighted the importance of bus safety and the economic and educational benefits of riding a school bus.
“A lot of people are very hesitant about the school bus,” said Ashley Fussell, a Love the Bus planning committee member. “I feel like there is so much bad media that comes when there is an accident or an incident, and I don’t think parents realize how safe public school buses really are.”
Children are 20 times safer riding a bus than going to school by other means, and only 1 percent of bus fatalities to and from school are students riding on buses, said Markus Videnieks, coordinator for the American School Bus Council.
The council says school buses are safe because they are meticulously maintained and because drivers must complete special training in safety, security and medical procedures. Students are also 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the bus instead of traveling in a private vehicle.
“A large percentage of being successful in school is just getting there,” Videnieks said. “That doesn’t happen without a reliable institution like the school bus.”
He said school buses help the environment, too.
“For every school bus, you can take 36 cars off of the road to and from school each day,” Videnieks said.
On the Web
The American School Bus Council has a fact sheet about school buses at www.schoolbusfacts.com. It says:
- School buses decrease the United States’ dependence on foreign oil through an annual savings of 2.3 billion gallons of fuel.
- School buses represent 25 percent of the miles traveled by students but account for less than 4 percent of the injuries.
- A 20-mile round-trip school commute saves an approximate $420 annually for each student who rides the bus and an approximate $10.9 billion nationwide.