Advocates Push for Mandatory Underride Guards on School Buses

Could underride guards lower the number of school bus collision fatalities?

Traffic safety advocates are pushing for underride guards to now be mandatory on school buses, as they are on semi-trailers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 26,000 accidents involved school buses each year. Advocates say that this number could be significantly lowered with the addition of underride guards to the back end of buses. A metal bar would be placed below the rear bumper of a school bus. Thus, this bar would prevent a car running into the back of a bus from becoming wedged beneath it.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration implemented this requirement on all trucks, trailers, and semitrailers made on or after January 1998, according to a study published by the administration. The final ruling on this stated that “11,551 rear-end collisions that resulted in approximately 423 passenger vehicle occupant fatalities and 5,030 non-fatal injuries.”

However, this study showed though analysis of Fatality Analysis Reporting System findings, there was “not unequivocal evidence that the guards are effective and the FARS analysis shows that there remains room for improvement.”

“On school buses, it’s not a common thing, and there’s tremendous opportunity for underride given how high the bumper is,” Daniel Blower, an associate research scientist who studies traffic safety at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, said to a paper in New York. “In my view, this is a safety issue that should be addressed.”

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