According to an in-depth research study conducted in 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that approximately 142 people die every year due to an accident involving a school bus or other vehicle used as a school bus. Of these reported casualties, 72 percent were drivers or passengers in vehicles other than the school bus involved in the accident. The remaining percentage of victims are primarily school-aged children, drivers and bus monitors, with nearly half of killed children falling within the five- to seven-year-old range.
What are the Causes of School Bus Accidents?
While the reasons behind school bus accidents and their resulting injuries, death and damage vary from case to case, there are a few very common causes that have been observed since buses took over as the primary mode of transportation for school-aged children.
- Driver Error – A large number of school bus accidents have been attributed to driver error, distraction or other complications that inhibit driving ability under a certain set of circumstances. Due to the growing number of accidents associated with distraction of the driver related to cell phones, mp3 players and other hand held devices, numerous laws have gone into effect regarding their use. In most areas of the United States today, the use of a mobile phone for calling or texting purposes is outlawed within a certain radius of elementary, middle and high schools during peak travel hours. Bus drivers themselves are prohibited from using a cell phone or portable music player while operating the bus.
- Vehicle Malfunction – Mechanical problems with engine, transmission, tires, hydraulics and other integral systems can result in a variety of dangerous issues that cause loss of control and crashes all over the country. Proper inspection and routine maintenance of all buses on a school’s fleet is mandatory in order to ensure the safety of students, school staff, pedestrians and other motorists on the road.
- Old or Defective Equipment – Although the presence and use of seat belts in private and business vehicles is mandated by state law throughout the country, hundreds of thousands of school buses are still allowed to transport children to and from home every day without any restraint system whatsoever. Even in buses that have been equipped with proper seat belts, hundreds of children are injured due to faulty belts, buckles or seats. Continuing support and demand for improved safety systems in school bus fleets has managed to make a slight difference in schools that possess the funds and means to update their buses. Schools in less prosperous areas, however, often find it difficult, if not impossible, to provide their students and their families with the peace of mind that seat belts and quality safety equipment have to offer.
Approximately 17,000 children are hospitalized or treated in an emergency facility every year due to an injury sustained while on or near a school bus. Replacement of out-of-date vehicles and accessories can help bring this number down significantly, allowing school children, their families and school administration officials to feel more confident in the transportation system that millions of people rely upon every day. If your family has been negatively affected by an accident directly related to school bus use or malfunction, you may be entitled to legal and financial recourse. An experienced personal injury attorney will assess your case and determine the most effective course of action to obtain compensation.
Janet, Jenner & Suggs, LLC is a Cerebral Palsy law firm located in Baltimore, Maryland/Columbia, South Carolina/Asheville, NorthCarolina. For more information, please visit www.cerebral-palsy-injury.com.