Protecting Our Children: School Bus Safety
Did you know that the school bus is this country’s most widely-used form of mass transit? Every weekday, millions of students travel from home to school and back. In Maine, an estimated 80% of all students take the bus to school. Although we rely on these buses and their drivers to keep our children safe, these buses account for some of the most tragic accidents on the roads today.
Bus Accidents In the News
Recent weeks have been especially terrible ones for parents in five states. It started on October 30, when a motorist in Rochester, Indiana, struck four children as they were approaching their school bus. Three were killed and the fourth had to be airlifted to a hospital with severe injuries.
As the week unfolded, more tragedies occurred:
- On October 31, two more children were struck by motorists as they were boarding their school buses: a nine-year-old boy in Mississippi and a kindergartner in Tallahassee, Florida.
- On November 1, a seven-year-old boy was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in Franklin Township, Pennsylvania. That same day, in Florida, a speeding motorist hit three children and two adults: fortunately, all survived.
Authorities are attributing an increase in school bus accidents to distracted driving. The conditions of the buses themselves have also caused concern: in 2015, a CBS 13 investigation revealed that more than half of all school buses in Maine do not meet basic safety standards. Violations include:
- Broken suspension springs
- Rusted brake lines
- Malfunctioning steering mechanisms
National Accident Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1,313 people in the U.S.died in accidents involving some form of school transportation between 2006 and 2015. Of the 102 school-age pedestrians included in this total, 61% were hit by school buses, 36% by other vehicles, and 3% by vehicles serving as school transportation. An additional 113 school bus occupants died in crashes during this period.
Responding to the recent tragedies, the NHTSA issued a press release and video message from its Deputy Administrator with the following safety tips for motorists driving in school zones and near bus stops.
- Drive more slowly and with greater vigilance in neighborhoods with a school zone.
- Watch for children around bus stops. Schoolchildren who are running late for the bus often rush into the street without looking both ways.
- When the lights are yellow, it means that the bus is preparing to stop to let children on or off. Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop
. Redlights and an extended stop arm means that the bus has stopped and children are getting or on off. Drivers are required to stop and not move again until the red lights stop flashing, the stop-arm withdraws, and the bus starts moving again.
Who is Responsible for School Bus Accidents?
When a school bus injury occurs, the circumstances of the accident might indicate liability on the part of a third party.
- If the accident was due to bus driver negligence, the driver and the driver’s employer may be liable. Although school districts are government entities and have general immunity from civil liability, there are exceptions to immunity under the Maine Tort Claims Act.
- If a defective part caused the collision, the fault may lie with the manufacturer and may implicate a product liability lawsuit.
- If a motorist runs a red light and collides with the bus or strikes a child due to inattention while texting, the motorist may be held liable.
No matter who is legally responsible, an experienced Maine accident attorney can help victims navigate the legal complexities and receive the settlement they need to cover medical costs and compensate for other losses.
What’s the Bottom Line?
If your child has been injured in a school bus accident, either as a pedestrian or rider, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. We will investigate the accident to find out who is responsible. Let us use our experience and qualifications to obtain justice so you can focus on helping your child recover.