(WHTM/NEXSTAR) – You probably see school buses on the road almost every day when the school is in session. But have you ever wondered why school buses are yellow and not light green?
It’s not about looks or because the US Department of Education loves the color yellow – it’s more about science and safety.
According to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, this practice dates back to 1939, when Frank W. Cyr, also known as the “Father of the School Bus,” held a conference for traffic officials, educators, and even color experts.
The year before, Cyr had done his own research and found that there were no standards for the color of school transit. Smithsonian Magazine explains that Cyr surveyed buses in 10 states and found that children rode buses to school in all sorts of colors, including the colors of the US flag.
“Red, white, and blue was camouflage, if you think about it. It should make kids patriotic,” Cyr said at a 50th anniversary celebration, the Los Angeles Times reported. “It was well intentioned but they made the buses less visible. And I don’t think it really had that much impact on patriotism.”
The conference was held for seven days and a 42-page building manual for buses was created. Of course, while the standardization of US school buses was pushed for safety reasons, the decision was also an economic one. With a more standardized look, buses could be mass-produced and thus made cheaper.
The guide included the standardized yellow paint color: “National School Bus Chrome”. This particular shade of school bus chrome was a pure bright yellow, closer to the color of a lemon. However, over time, the yellow softened and became a bit warmer.
Today, the color is known as “National School Bus Glossy Yellow,” according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.
According to scientific research from the Color Matters website, the color yellow grabs your attention more than any other color. Even if you look ahead, it’s easier to see yellow in your peripheral vision. Scientists say lateral peripheral vision for seeing the color yellow is 1.24 better than red.
But even if most school buses are they are not yellow necessary be yellow. The NHTSA states that there are no federal requirements for bus color and that state and local governments create their own rules on the matter. However, it is recommended that they are yellow.
“The uniform appearance of school buses helps motorists identify the vehicles as school buses,” says the NHTSA.
There is also no indication of how many people can safely sit on a bus, which is also left to local schools and governments. NHTSA recommends that all students be fully seated while on the bus.
What happened to the “chrome”?
In case you’re wondering why National School Bus Chrome changed to National School Bus Glossy Yellow over the years, it’s not just because the shade of yellow has evolved.
The “chrome” contained in the original name referred to the metal chromium that the paint used to contain. As Gizmodo explains, this particular metal — hexavalent chromium — was used extensively in manufacturing before its toxicity (and carcinogenic potential) was discovered.
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