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Why are All School Buses Yellow?

Close up photo of school bus on sunny day with clean blue background

Did you know that the symbolic yellow colors of the school bus have an interesting origin? Yes, a valid reason exists why the buses are yellow—to keep children safe when they’re riding to and from school.

When Yellow Buses Became Popular

In 1939, North America bore the idea to create “National School Bus Chrome.” The idea was that it was a color that would attract attention and one of the most noticeable shades to detect in your peripheral vision. School Bus Yellow, the shortened term used to describe the color of school buses, is the select color created in the United States.

Also in 1939, a professor named Dr. Frank W. Cyr, from New York’s Columbia University, came up with the standards for school buses. He helped determine how big they should be, what color they would be, among other safety factors. This decision came at a conference, where 44 total standards were set forth on what school buses would look like.

Not only did the yellow coloring make the buses extremely visible, but it also made it so that the black lettering showing the name of the school and the bus number would be easy to read even in semi-darkness. Children must be able to see that they’re getting on the right bus. The National Institute of Standards and Technology made School Bus Yellow a federal standard color, under No. 595a, Color 13432.

Your Eyes and the Color Yellow

Science shows that the receptor cones in the human eye let you see certain colors better than others, and some better in the day and others better at night. During the day, green is easiest to see, followed by yellow. These colors are the easiest to see at a distance, as well. When it’s darker out, yellow is the easiest color to see, no matter how far away a yellow object is.

What About School Buses in Other Countries?

Many places around the world have followed suit with the United States, viewing yellow as a safe and noticeable color for school buses. Japan, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Russia, Cuba, and recently Kenya all utilize yellow buses to transport children to and from school. The yellows colors of these other buses may not always be the standard School Bus Yellow, but they still stand out. Germany’s school buses, however, more closely resemble city transportation buses and aren’t yellow.

The size of the buses seem to be what differs the most. Some countries have smaller buses that end up crowded with kids, while others use larger buses than the United States.

School buses outside the United States are often only for private school students, whereas in America you see school buses for all sorts of schools, including public education.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »