School Bus, Magic Bus

If you have a child in school, kindergarten through high school, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that your daughter or son gets to school on a yellow school bus (and more on that “yellow” in a bit).

About 25 million kids ride the bus to school (and home again) every day.  And as you might imagine, that takes a lot of buses.  Roughly 480,000 of them.

Some of those buses roll through city streets – some of them are on runs deep out in the country.  They pick up kids on freezing cold mornings, and days so hot the kids can’t wait to get to school and cool off.  School buses run on highways and byways, tree-lined suburban roads and gritty urban streets.

But no matter where and when they run, almost all those school buses have something in common (ok, besides the kids.  And the yellow paint.).

Whether they look like this…

…or this

…or even this…

…they run on fuels made from petroleum, and usually that fuel is diesel.  And without those fuels, the wheels on the bus don’t go round and round – they don’t go anywhere.

Of course, the first school buses were actually school wagons, pulled by horses.  That goes back to the 1880s.  But students, like the rest of us, traded those horses in for the internal combustion engine – and by the early 1900s, students, like the rest of us, got around on petroleum-based fuels.  And it’s been that way ever since.

And why yellow?  No, it isn’t because somebody in the banana industry got to the school bus people.  It happened in 1939, at a national conference to set standards for school buses – and yellow was chosen as the color because, yeah, it gets your attention.  Or if you’d like the scientific version of that:  “Lateral peripheral vision for detecting yellows is 1.24 times greater than for red.”  (And red is a pretty eye-catching color itself.)

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