Greatest Risk in School Travel is Not on School Buses

Press Release - For immediate use

Novemeber 19, 2002

CHAPEL HILL, NC — Children are at far more risk traveling to and from school in private passenger vehicles — especially if a teen-age driver is involved — than in school buses, says a report from a committee of school transportation experts convened by the National Academies' Transportation Research Board. The report, entitled "The Relative Risks of School Travel: A National Perspective and Guidance for Local Community Assessment" is the result of a study sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"When children are killed or inured in school bus crashes, the public's attention is instantly focused on school transportation and bus safety," said committee chair Dr. H. Douglas Robertson, director of the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "However, when a child is killed or injured in a car crash, bicycle crash, or while walking to or from school, the association with school transportation is not as direct. The public does not readily recognize the need to address these safety issues."

According to the study, an average of 800 children died and 152,000 children were injured yearly during school travel between 1991-1999. Passenger vehicle crashes were responsible for 75% of those deaths and 84% of the injuries, and bicycle and pedestrian crashes represented 22% of deaths and 11% of injuries. School bus travel was the safest form of travel studied, with crashes involving school buses accounting for only 2% of deaths and 4% of injuries.

The most risky form of school travel is in cars driven by teenagers. While cars with teen drivers accounted for only 14% of student school trips, teens were at the wheel when over half of the injuries and fatalities occurred. Fourteen and fifteen year-olds were mostly likely to be hurt or killed as passengers in cars operated by a teenage driver.

To help identify the risks of school travel, the committee developed a risk-management framework as part of the report. This framework should be included among the tools used by school agencies and government agencies to make decisions on locations of schools, changes in the amount of student parking provided, or changes in the area serviced by school buses.

"The committee's goal was to improve the safety of all children traveling to and from school by providing information to communities so that they can make informed choices that balance their needs and resources," explains Dr. Robertson. "We hope this report will help each state, school district, and private school assess its own situation and circumstances to improve the safety of its schoolchildren."

Copies of The Relative Risks of School Travel: A National Perspective and Guidance for Local Community Assessment are available for free on the Internet at Go to it directly at Printed copies are now available for purchase from the Transportation Research Board; tel. (202) 334-3213, fax (202) 334-2519, or e-mail Reporters may obtain a copy from the Transportation Research Board's Office of News and Public Information by contacting Jennifer Burris, Media Relations Associate or Cory Arberg, Media Relations Assistant at (202) 334-2138 or via e-mail


UNC Highway Safety Research Center contact: Renee Morin, (919) 962-7803 or

Media Contacts

Caroline Dickson

To get news updates delivered to your email account, sign up for our mailing list.