School Bus Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a school bus is the safest vehicle on the road. In fact, students are close to seventy times more likely to get to school safely when taking the bus rather than a car. This isn’t surprising considering school bus design and laws protecting kids during the ride and entering and exiting.
The most obvious protective design element for a school bus is its bright yellow exterior, making it highly visible. It has flashing lights, cross-view mirrors, and stop-sign arms. It also has built in protections for kids in the event of a crash.
You might think that the lack of seat belts in a school bus might make it less safe. (California mandates seatbelts for most busses. See more below.) But that isn’t necessarily true. Busses are heavy vehicles that distribute crash forces differently than cars and light trucks. This means children experience less force in the event of a crash.
Also, the interior of a school bus protects children without having to use seatbelts. Children are protected with close seating and energy-absorbing seat backs.
How to Keep Your Children Safe In and Around Their School Bus
It turns out that the greatest danger school bus riders face is getting on and off the bus. So we checked in with the NHTSA and the National Safety Council (NSC) for tips that parents and children can use to stay safe during the school year.
School Bus Safety Tips for Parents and Kids
- Get to the bus stop at least 5 minutes early. Make sure your younger child knows to stand at least six feet (three giant steps) away from the curb. And remind him/her that this is not a place for horseplay with cars traveling on the road just in front of them.
- Have your child wait for the bus to come to a complete stop with the door open before entering. Wait for the driver’s okay and use the handrail.
- Children should never walk behind a bus. When they walk across the street in front of the bus, they should maintain a distance of around ten feet (five giant steps) in front of the bus before crossing. It’s good if the child can always try to make eye contact with the driver while crossing, so they know the driver sees them.
- Ask your children not to yell or speak too loudly while the bus is moving so as not to distract the driver.
- Children should stay in their seat.
- Don’t put head, arms, or hands out the window.
- Keep aisles clear of books and bags.
- Get your stuff together before reaching the stop.
- Wait for the bus to completely stop before getting up out of your seat.
- After the driver signals your child can cross the street in front of the bus, urge them to still look left, right, then left again before crossing.
Tough California School Bus Regulations
Parents are glad to know that California has some of the strictest school bus regulations in the country. For example, drivers must obtain a California Special Driver Certificate issued by the School Bus Program of the California Highway Patrol. This is after obtaining a commercial driver’s license from the California DMV.
Each driver is also subject to background checks and drug screening. Also ten additional hours of training every year. Then every five years drivers must take the entire School Bus Program certification course to get re-certified.
Before each run, there is a twenty minute safety check that each driver is required to perform. And California school busses have also been required to have three-point seat belts if purchased since July 2004 or July 2005, depending on the design and size of the bus. And all busses in California must have seatbelts by the year 2035.
School Bus Accidents Do Happen
An NHTSA study found that from 2007 to 2016, there were 1,282 people killed in school transportation related crashes. That’s an average of 128 fatalities per year. Occupants of school transportation vehicles accounted for 9% of the fatalities while non-occupants—pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.—were 20% of the fatalities. 70% were occupants of other vehicles.
During this same 10 year period, 98 of the deaths were school age pedestrians. Most of these deaths occurred between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. This is why we stressed the safety rules above for kids getting on and off the bus.
Common causes of driver related school bus accidents are drunk or drugged driving, drowsy driving, or distracted driving. Busses may also have inadequate maintenance or something unforeseen may go wrong with the engine, steering, or brakes.
What You Should Do if You Suffer a School Bus Accident
So accidents do happen in and around your child’s school bus. If your child is hurt in a school bus accident, what should you do?
The first thing to know is that suing a school district can be a complicated process. That’s because a public school system is considered a government entity. That mean it enjoys immunity from certain kinds of liability. And the statute of limitations is only 6 months.
For these reasons, it’s critically important that you get the accident report right and put the school district on notice promptly. So call us at Case Barnett Law. We are experienced Child Injury Law attorneys and we can help you navigate the often complicated California legal system.
We’ll help you get compensated for medical bills, physical therapy, and/or property damage. The thing that parents often don’t realize is that these expenses can be ongoing, even lasting a lifetime. That’s why just compensation is so important.
We’ll help you negotiate a good settlement or, if that’s not possible, we are experienced courtroom attorneys and we will fight for your compensation in court. We will never push you to accept a settlement that isn’t in your best interest to avoid going to trial.
If you have questions or your child has been involved in a school bus accident, give us a call at 949.861.2990 or request a free, no-obligation consultation here.