Skip to main content
SD23 Dashboard
Central Okanagan Public Schools
SD No. 23
Together We Learn
School Bus Safety and the Law

​​Safety in and around the school bus is as important as getting to and from the school bus stop. According to Transport Canada, the school bus is the safest mode of transportation for children because of provincial legislation and regulation, vehicle design and construction, fleet inspections and maintenance practices, operational policies and procedures, and driver qualifications.



To operate in British Columbia, school districts and other school bus operators must follow the laws and regulations that apply to the operation of commercial vehicles (trucks and buses), which includes, but is not limited to:

  • The Highway Traffic Act
  • Motor Vehicle Act Regulations
  • Dangerous Goods Transportation Act
  • Motor Vehicle Transport Act
  • National Safety Code
  • Environmental Protection Act




Red-Alternating Lights on the School Bus

Division 11, Section 12 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations states:

4) The driver of a yellow and black school bus may, but need not, activate

(a) the alternately flashing lamps, or

(b) the stop arm on the school bus when the bus is stopping or stopped to load or unload students.​


(5) The driver of a yellow and black school bus who activates the alternately flashing lamps on the school bus shall do so

(a) in sufficient time to give reasonable warning to the drivers of other vehicles who are required to stop, and

(b) throughout the entire process of loading or unloading students.


(6) No person shall operate the alternating flashing lamps or the stop arm on a yellow and black school bus unless the vehicle is stopped, or stopping to load or unload students.


Failure to Stop for the School Bus

Section 149 of the Motor Vehicle Act states;

The driver of a vehicle on a highway, on meeting or overtaking a school bus

(a) that is designated as a school bus,

(b) that is stopped on a highway, and

(c) on or near which a sign or signal is displayed indicating the school bus is receiving or discharging school children, must stop the vehicle before reaching the bus and not proceed until the bus resumes motion or the driver of the bus signals to other drivers that it is safe to proceed.


Failure to comply with the law endangers the lives of students and may result in a fine of $368.00.


Standing on the School bus

Division 11, Section 13 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act states:

(3) The driver of a school bus shall not

(a) allow any person to ride on the school bus unless the person is comfortably and securely seated on a passenger seat, or

(b) move the bus or cause it to move unless he is reasonably certain that every passenger on the bus is comfortably and securely seated.


Seating capacity on the school bus

(4) No person shall drive or operate on a highway, or allow or cause to be driven or operated on a highway, a school bus carrying more persons, including the driver, than the lesser of

(a) the number of persons who can be comfortably and securely seated, or

(b) the designated school bus seating capacity.


 Vehicle Design and Construction

School buses are subject to extensive construction and equipment standards on a larger scale than any other road vehicle.  School buses must meet structural standards for crash protection, fire retardancy, and emergency evacuation.


Transport Canada is responsible for setting school bus safety standards and making the vehicles easily identifiable with the "chrome yellow" prescribed color, emergency exits, the overhead flashing lights, stop arm, and crossing gate.  There are additional safety features that are not visible such as the strengthened steel beams which run the length of a school bus and a steel cage around the fuel tank.  As new technologies become available, school buses will continue to provide the safest transportation possible.


School purpose vehicles must comply with pollution emission restrictions and anti-idling bylaws and are dedicated to energy-efficient practices intended to reduce emissions and provide a healthier ride to school.


School Bus Safety Features

School buses are equipped with more safety equipment than any other vehicle. These safety features include well-padded, high-back, energy absorbing seats, as well as special equipment for wheelchair restraint systems. School bus interiors are designed to reduce the chances of injury caused by sharp edges or body panels that may tear loose in a crash. There are also specific requirements for lights, mirrors, rollover protection, brakes and emergency exits.


School buses have been proven to be the safest form of transportation for

students when compared to any other mode of travel.

What makes a school bus safe?




Why no seat belts?

Information from all types of school bus collisions demonstrates that the current school bus design provides a high level of protection to occupants and that seatbelts may adversely affect the safety of children on school buses (Transport Canada).


Instead of requiring seat belts, school buses are designed and constructed differently from passenger cars. School buses protect passengers through "compartmentalization", a design that includes;

  • Seats with high backs;
  • Seats filled with energy-absorbing material;
  • Seats placed close together to form compartments;
  • Strong seat anchorages.


Studies have shown that adding seat belts to the current seating configuration of a school bus can increase the chance of head and neck injuries. For a seat belt to be effective, it must be worn correctly, snug and on the upper thighs.


Because school vehicles carry passengers from the very young to high school students, if seat belts were used, they would need to be readjusted and their use monitored. A seat belt not worn correctly may cause additional injury.