Reason Why Kenyan & US School Buses Are Painted Yellow

Photo collage of school buses painted yellow parked.
Photo collage of school buses painted yellow parked.
Capital FM

Many people always wonder why school buses in Kenya and US are painted yellow instead of other colours, such as white which is synonymous with most vehicles.

The law dictating the adoption of yellow as the official colour for all school buses in the country was passed in 2017. This was after the Traffic Amendment Bill 2016 was passed in the National Assembly prescribing the changes.

According to the Traffic Amendment Bill 2016, sponsored b then Laisamis MP Joseph Lekuton, the school buses were to be painted yellow and their school names emblazoned in black.

Under the law, school buses were also barred from operating between 6 am and 6 pm.

Kenyan school buses parked at a field during an education event in 2019

Former Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, then the Education CS, spearheaded the rollout exercise in the country.

"School buses time of travel is 6am-6pm. I hereby direct the police to ensure that all the school buses operate from 6 am to 6 pm only," stated the former CS.

Reason for Adopting Yellow Colour

According to scientists, pedestrians and other motorists can see yellow objects in their peripherals field 1.24 times better than red.

Besides having a high visibility value, yellow is easily noticed in a dark environment.

The black lettering on yellow is also the easiest colour for drivers to see when picking up and dropping students from school.

According to experts, the colour was ideal, as it was even visible during foggy weather. It was adopted for the safety purposes of drivers and school-going children.

History of Its Adoption

The adoption of yellow as the official colour for school buses dates back to 1939. Academician Frank Cyr propounded the idea.

Cyr earned the title 'Father of the Yellow School Bus' due to his continued push to adopt the colour.

The scholar received funds and support from The Rockefeller-backed General Education Board to study local school bus needs and bring together the various parties who could effectuate needed changes.

File image of a school bus
File image of a school bus

After receiving the funds, Cyr held a conference for transportation officials, educators, school bus manufacturers and, paint experts.

Before convening the experts' conference, Cyr had conducted his own research in which he learned there were no standards for the colour of school transportation, a cause of concern for manufacturers.

After seven days, the conference attendees created 42 pages of school bus construction guidelines that included the standardised yellow paint colour, dubbed 'National School Bus Chrome,' to be used on the exterior of all school buses.

Following the resolution from the conference, yellow was adopted as the official colour for all school buses in the US.