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Why are school buses yellow?

Exploring the origins of the iconic big yellow school buses that transport around 26 million children across the U.S.
Why are school buses yellow?
Posted at 4:48 PM, Nov 12, 2023

You see the bright yellow color every morning, and we're not talking about the sun; we're speaking of the bright yellow buses that transport millions of kids to and from school every day, but believe it or not, the bright yellow was not always there.

And while it kind of looks like those old number two pencils we use, that’s not the reason behind the color of the school bus. 

Let’s go back in time.

There used to be no rules for school transportation. Kids went to school in horse-drawn wagons, and some districts had red, white, and blue buses to instill patriotism.

That all changed with this guy: Frank W. Cyr, best known as "The Father of the Yellow School Bus."

He was a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, and in 1939, he put together a conference focused on the school bus. He brought in teachers, transportation experts, engineers, and, yes, paint specialists.

Together, they came up with 42 pages worth of school bus regulations, among them a yellow hue.

They decided on yellow because black letters were the easiest to see with a yellow background, and yellow stood out even in bad weather.

In fact, the color is now officially known as “national school bus glossy yellow."

While federal law does not require all school buses to follow this practice, the national highway traffic safety administration does list it among its recommendations.

Every day, 480,000 school buses drive kids to school across the United States. They may all go in different directions and drop off at different schools, but you can always count on that yellow color being the same.

SEE MORE: 4-day school weeks growing in popularity


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