About school bus safety in Canada

School buses are the safest form of transportation in Canada. Taking a school bus is safer than any other way for students to travel to school, including riding a bicycle, being driven in a passenger vehicle or walking.

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Who is responsible for school bus safety in Canada

School bus safety is a shared responsibility. Federal and provincial or territorial governments, school boards and school bus operators each play a role in making sure our school buses are safe.

Transport Canada is responsible for establishing the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which include specific safety requirements for school buses, such as body joint strength, rollover protection, structural integrity, bus window retention, release and emergency exit requirements, as well as pedestrian safety devices, brake systems and stability control. In addition, similar to other classes of vehicles, school buses must meet requirements for lighting, tires, wheels, mirrors and other safety equipment.

Provinces and territories enforce safety on Canada’s roads and highways and set the rules of the road. They are also responsible for licensing of school bus drivers, policies for safe operation of school buses and for the maintenance of school buses.

The majority of provinces require that school buses be built to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standard D250. This standard is developed jointly by representatives from Transport Canada, provincial governments, school bus operators and manufacturers. It covers a range of requirements related to the school bus body, chassis (outer frame), and other components that complement federal requirements, such as:

  • lamps
  • reflectors and signals
  • crossing and stop arms
  • mirrors
  • strobe lamps
  • roof hatches
  • school bus colour

Updates to Motor Vehicle Safety regulations for school buses

To improve school bus safety, we made the following changes to the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations.

July 11, 2018

Seat belt installation and improved compartmentalization requirements

This amendment:

  • Tells manufacturers how to properly install lap-shoulder seat belts on school buses, if an operator request that they do so
  • Does not allow manufactures to install lap-only seat belts
  • Improves compartmentalization for larger students by raising the minimum seat back height

Manufacturers need to comply with these standards as of September 1, 2020.

Read the specific amendment
Canada Gazette, Part II

June 4, 2017

Electronic stability control requirements

This amendment brought in requirements for electronic stability control systems on large school buses to help prevent rollovers.

Read the specific amendment
Canada Gazette, Part II

April 1, 2007

Child car seat and booster seat anchor requirements

This amendment required all new school buses to have a minimum number of seats with lower and tether anchors, based on the bus’ number of passenger seats.

  • Ensures that child seats can be safely installed on school buses to accommodate small/preschool-aged children.

Read the specific amendment
Canada Gazette, Part II

Statistics on school bus safety

According to the National Collision Database (NCDB) statistics, school buses are the safest means of transporting students to and from school. As of 2018, students are about 80 times more likely to get to school safely on a school bus than by car.

Fatalities on school buses account for less than 0.1% of all motor vehicle-related fatalities in Canada. In the last decade, between 2009 and 2018, there was 1 school bus passenger fatality on Canadian roads.

Note: data were filtered to identify school-related purpose, ie, weekdays (Mon-Fri), school months (Sept-June), and school related hours (6:00am-9:59am) and (2:00pm-5:59pm)

School bus safety review

We are committed to strengthening road safety in Canada. That is why we are doing a review of school bus safety measures, including seat belts.

Our review will look at seat belt use, as well as broader school bus safety issues. It will:

  • include a comprehensive review of studies and data on school bus operations in North America
  • review data from places where seat belts are already in use on school buses
  • establish a Task Force on School Bus Safety

The Task Force will include:

  • provincial and territorial authorities
  • school bus fleet operators and education authorities
  • safety and advocacy groups
  • industry
  • academia

The Task Force will review the data on school bus safety and seatbelts, and identify potential ways to strengthen school bus safety.

Contact Motor Vehicle Safety

Telephone: 1-800-333-0371 (toll-free), 613-998-8616 (Ottawa-Gatineau region)

Email: mvs-sa@tc.gc.ca

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