Each school day, yellow school buses transport millions of American kids to and from school. The school bus’ signature yellow color isn’t just for looks. It’s also a matter of safety.

Federal law in the United States requires that, in addition to flashing lights and safety devices, school buses must be painted “school bus yellow.” Before the standard school bus yellow color was developed, school buses were a pure yellow, closer to the color of a lemon.

School bus yellow is neither pure yellow nor pure orange. Instead, it is a mix of the two, similar to the color of the flesh of a mango. You may not find it in a box of crayons, but school bus yellow is a real color.

In 1939, Dr. Frank W. Cyr organized a conference to establish standards for U.S. school buses. This included a standard yellow color for all school buses in the United States. Originally the color was known as “National School Bus Chrome.”

Stop signs and stoplights are red, which leads many people to believe red is the most attention-grabbing color. In fact, yellow gets your attention faster than any other color.

Even if you are looking straight ahead, you can see a yellow object that is not directly in front of you out of the corners of your eyes. Objects you can see out of the corners of your eyes are in your “peripheral field.”

Scientists have found that people are able to see yellow objects in their peripheral field 1.24 times better than red. Unlike red, yellow is also more easily noticed in a dark environment.

This is one of the major reasons school bus yellow was chosen. The black lettering on yellow is the easiest color combination for drivers to see in the darkness of early morning when students are being picked up for school.

62 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (57 votes, avg. 3.89 out of 5)
  1. I have actually wondered why school buses are yellow, but have never given it that much thought. Once, a friend of mine told me why most people caught speeding are people driving red cars. I thought it was because speeders liked the color red, but she told me it was because when a policeman is on the patrol a flash of red is much more noticeable than a flash of any other color. But after reading this, I think that a flash of yellow would be more noticeable. I also think that crayola should make a school bus colored crayon. This wonder is truly wonderful.

    • We never knew that about speeders and their red cars, Allison! Thanks so much for teaching US something new today! We’re glad you liked this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  2. I loved this information in the text because it is something everyone has in common. We have all seen a school bus. My favorite fact was before the standard school bus yellow color was developed, school buses were a pure yellow, closer to the color of a lemon. School bus yellow is neither pure yellow nor pure orange. They are a mix between the two.

    • We think that’s a GREAT fact about school buses, Megan! Thank you for all your awesome comments today…we can tell you have been doing a LOT of WONDERing, and that makes us SUPER happy! :-)

    • We’re glad you learned something new about the color of school buses by exploring this Wonder of the Day® about them Amoolya! Thanks for letting us know! :-)

  3. Hello,
    I never knew that yellow gets a person’s attention faster than any color. Another thing that I learned was that school bus yellow is a real color! I never knew these things. Two new vocabulary words I learned are chrome and peripheral. Peripheral means the things that you can see out of the corner of your eye. I still have one more question about school buses, why can’t school buses just be the color yellow and not school bus yellow?

    • That’s a SUPER question, Team McNeil 11! Because that same color has been used for so long, we think when people see school bus yellow, their brains automatically say, “school bus.” If another yellow was used, it might not make people remember to be super careful when they see the school bus! :-)

  4. That is really cool. I just assumed that was something bus companies did. I had no idea that it was actually a law. And that it is a specific color.

    • Thanks for letting us know you learned something new by exploring this Wonder about the color of school buses, Chuck…that is AWESOME! We thought it was really interesting to learn the story behind “school bus yellow,” too! :-)

  5. I didn’t know the history of the yellow School bus. I just thought that they had always been yellow, not National School Bus Chrome. I had never thought of yellow getting your attention faster than any other color. Very interesting!!!

    • Thanks for sharing that you thought this Wonder was interesting, Chris! We thought it was cool to learn the “why” and “how” of the much-loved and always recognizable yellow school bus color, too! :-)

  6. Hi, not only is yellow a great choice for school buses, it represents SAFETY. A color from the primary colors of red, yellow, black and white.

    • We’re giving you a great big thumbs UP for your comment, Ernie! That bright yellow stands out and helps other drivers see the bus from a great distance. This way, they can slow down when the school bus driver picks up and drops off students! Thank you for posting on Wonderopolis today– we love WONDERing about interesting ways that colors are used with you! :)

  7. People now days are in such a rush about everything they do. Everything is rush, rush, rush. The bright color of the bus does help catch their attention and hopefully reminds them to slow down and pay more attention to their surroundings.

    • You’ve made a great observation, Tommy! The world can be a very busy place, and the same is true for the people who live in it. It’s important to be safe, and the color of a school bus is a great reminder to slow down and be cautious– just like the yellow signal on a stop sign! Thanks for sharing your comment today– we LOVE great Wonder Friends like you! :)

  8. Interesting! I’ve heard this story long ago but forgotten it. Tommy makes a great point! It seems we are all in a rush all the time.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment with us, William D! We are glad you remembered the story about why school buses are yellow! We like that you agree with Tommy, too! We love when Wonder Friends chat with one another! Thanks for stopping by! :)

    • Thanks so much, James! We like to Wonder about things, like school buses, that we see nearly every day! We hope you have a WONDER-filled day, James! :)

    • That’s great, Autumn! We are glad you’re traveling in a yellow school bus– it’s a safe way to get to and from school! :)

    • The bright yellow color is easy to see from far away, Shyanne! School buses have been yellow for many years– since 1939! We’re glad you’re WONDERing with us today! :)

    • We are glad to hear that you learned something new about school buses, Natalie! We Wonder if you ride a school bus, walk, take public transportation, or ride in a car to get to class in the morning? :)

    • In many states it’s also
      actually illegal to keep a bus the factory color once it’s used as anything but a school bus.

    • WOOHOO, that’s awesome news, Caroline! Thanks for letting us know that Wonderopolis has helped you recently! It’s cool to learn awesome facts with SUPER friends! :)

    • Wonder Friend Brita, that’s fantastic news! We are thrilled to know that you’ve been WONDERing and learning with us– you’re a super intelligent Wonder Friend! :)

    • Thanks so much, Wonder Friend! We are so happy that you enjoyed our bright yellow Wonder! Do you take a yellow school bus to class? :)

  9. Wow! I never knew that school buses were yellow for a reason and that the color yellow is the color that you notice faster than any other color. I also learned a new word: peripheral. That’s a big word.

  10. When I see yellow,I am awake.And totally off topic,but I like how you reply to everyone’s comments!Can’t wait for 1500 Wonders!I also am seeing it all the way down the road.Yellow can be eye-popping!

  11. I have always wondered why the school bus was yellow. Very interesting information. I always thought red was the fastest color people noticed.

    • We’re so GLAD you learned something new by visiting this Wonder today, Terri! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us! We hope you are having a WONDERful day! :)

    • That’s a great question, Jordan M! We aren’t sure who the first bus driver was. If you find the answer, we hope you’ll tell us so that we learn something new too! :)

  12. I NEVER knew the reason why school buses are yellow, until now! I was thinking, “Why aren’t they blue!?” well that would be interesting….. :P
    well I really enjoyed this topic/question of the day and hope this website will produce even better questions!! I am ready for more! Thank you for this website!

  13. I didn’t know that yellow caught your attention before the color red. Interesting fact. Enjoyed the music for the video.

    • Welcome back, Fred Hines! We are glad you found this WONDERing interesting and enjoyed the video. Thanks for sharing what you learned with us! :)

    • Hello WONDER friend, christian! You’re right, in that school buses are not a true yellow. School buses are required to be “school bus yellow”, which is a mixture of yellow and orange. Great WONDERing! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


  • Wonderopolis on Facebook
  • Wonderopolis on Pinterest
  • Print

Have you ever wondered…

  • Why are school buses yellow?
  • Is “school bus yellow” a real color?
  • What is the most attention-grabbing color?

Wonder Gallery

dreamstime_xl_6503330-customdreamstime_xl_13775658-customdreamstime_xl_23147767-customdreamstime_xl_29662811-customWonder-129-School-Bus-Static-ImageVimeo Video

Try It Out

We hope you enjoyed today’s eye-catching Wonder of the Day. Keep the learning rolling by checking out the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round — and you keep getting older and older! Capture each year on the bus with your very own school bus frame. You can even make your frame longer and add more windows so you can include a photo from each year of elementary school!
  • School buses are painted school bus yellow for safety reasons. Do you think it would be a good idea for ALL cars and trucks to be painted school bus yellow? Why or why not? If it makes school buses safer, do you think it would make all vehicles safer? Give it some thought and come to a conclusion based upon specific reasons, Discuss this question with your friends and family members. What do they think? What are the pros and cons of such a plan?
  • If making school buses easy to see makes them safer, what other methods could school bus manufacturers use to make them even safer? Think about other important vehicles that have special features that make them more noticeable. For example, what kinds of features to fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars have? What features on these vehicles could be incorporated into school buses to make them even safer? Which of these features would NOT be good to incorporate into school buses? Why? Have fun thinking about vehicle design and the pros and cons of various attention-getting features.


Still Wondering

You already know how children get to school every day. Check out the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s interactive Where’s Everyone Going? game to learn more about how other people get to the places they need to go.


Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a closer look at something that comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.