As the new school year starts, yellow school buses appear on roads across America. I was on a yellow school bus only once — when I joined the undergraduates from Chatham University on a field trip. The inside of the bus is as sturdy as its exterior impression. Hand bars are visible and accessible. Seat belts are installed in every seat. A high protection screen stands before the front row seats to provide safety when passengers fall forward at a sudden brake. There’re multi-mirrors around the driver’s seat to give specific reflections.
What make American school buses unique in design are the two hands of stop signs on either side of the bus. When the school bus stops, both hands will spread like a pair of warning wings. Vehicles around the bus on both directions must stop by law. I am really impressed by the way American school children are protected by the traffic law. In contrast, Chinese school children dying in traffic accidents because of shabby makeshift school buses is hardly news any more.
A car rental company in my hometown of Guangzhou, China, plans to import several yellow school buses from America in the hope of providing safe transportation for local school children. But each rental school bus is worth over a million yuan (approximately 200 thousand US dollars). Many parents are afraid that tuition and fees will increase to make up for the rental. However, in my opinion, it’s not a tough decision. What’s more valuable: a kid’s life or the cost for the kid to ride on a safe bus?
In fact, facing the sluggish economy, even American public schools are having a tough time buying new school buses. For example, the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area suffers horrific traffic, especially during rush hour. As a consequence, local school children cannot arrive at school on time. Although increasing school buses is on almost everyone’s wish list, getting more buses also means fewer stable jobs for teachers. I’m bewildered by the reason for the government spending cuts. If residents still pay the same amount of taxes, where does the cut money go? Why can public schools afford school buses in the past but not now?
Anyway, I just hope school children—whether in China or America—won’t be the victims of the haggling in the adults’ world. After all, their safety should be the priority.