Every school day, roughly 440,000 yellow school buses transport more than 24 million students to and from school and school-related activities, accounting for more than 8.8 bilion student trips per year.
School bus transportation has proven to be the safest way to transport a child, especially given the high number of trips taken. In the decade between 1991 and 2001, an average of 26 children died each year in school bus accident, 19 as pedestrians – getting on or off a school bus – and seven as passengers – a small number in comparison to the average of 800 school-age children who are killed each year as passengers in other motor vehicles, walking or riding their bicycle during school transportation hours. Half of all school-age pedestrians killed in school bus accidents were between the ages of 5 and 7.
The low number of passenger fatalities could be due to the low speed at which buses usually travel as well as the large size of the bus itself. This size, however, often poses a threat to other motor vehicles sharing the road with the school bus. In fact, of the 1,479 total school bus accident fatalities occurring between 1991 and 2001, 68 percent were occupants of other vehicles involved.
In all, one-third of the 406,000 fatal traffic crashes that occurred between 1991 and 2001 were classified as school-transportation related. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a school transportation-related crash is a crash which involves, either directly or indirectly, a school bus body vehicle, or a non-school bus functioning as a school bus, transporting children to or from school or school-related activities.
Although school bus accident rates are considerably low, school bus accidents are still devastating for all involved. In an effort to further prevent students from sustaining injuries or fatalities in school bus accidents, school bus safety advocates are fighting to implement seat belts in the design of all yellow school buses, arguing that the school bus design has not changed since 1977.
Furthermore, in an effort to prevent pedestrians and non-bus occupants from being injured in a school bus accident, states have instituted safety precautions that must be taken by drivers in the vicinity of school buses.
Many factors must be taken into consideration when deciding fault in a school bus accident. Although infrequent, school bus accidents do occur, and a lawyer specializing in school bus accidents can help determine the negligent party and assess any damages that may be claimed.