Back-to-School Season Raises Questions of School Bus Safety

As your children head back to school this fall, it’s natural to wonder how safe they will be, especially on and around school buses. To allay fears, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cites statistics from the Department of Transportation indicating that a child has only a one percent chance of experiencing a fatal accident when traveling by school bus, as opposed to a 53 percent chance when traveling by teen driver and 23 percent when traveling by adult driver. But is this assertion accurate?

The NHTSA claims that school buses are the safest mode of transportation for students, because:

  • Buses have special crush standards.
  • Red flashing lights warn approaching vehicles to stop.
  • Cross view mirrors provide drivers with additional visibility.
  • Reinforced sides protect against side-impact crashes.
  • Bright, distinctive yellow color warns motorists to proceed with caution.
  • Stop side-arms swing out to deter vehicles from passing.

The NHTSA also asserts that school bus drivers are:

  • Trained in student behavior management
  • Trained in loading and unloading passengers
  • Trained in security procedures
  • Trained in emergency medical procedures
  • Subject to random drug and alcohol testing
  • Subject to frequent checks of driving records

Yet, for many parents, anecdotal evidence of poorly trained, incompetent and apathetic drivers still raises concerns, as do headline-grabbing stories of school bus fatalities. A decade long study of school-transportation-related crashes seems to back up NHTSA’s general assertions, while contradicting the one percent statistic cited above. Released in June 2015, the study of crashes from 2004 to 2013 revealed that of 327 school-age children who died in school-transportation-related crashes:

  • 54 were occupants of school vehicles.
  • 147 were occupants of other vehicles.
  • 116 were pedestrians.
  • 9 were riding bicycles.

The 54 school bus fatalities represent close to 24 percent of the total, which is certainly a far cry from the DOT’s claim of one percent. Moreover, of the 116 pedestrians killed, 67 percent were struck by school buses or vehicles functioning as school buses. This would seem to raise serious questions about driver training as well as adult supervision of students around school transportation.

If you are the parent of a child injured in a school transportation accident, Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban is prepared to help. We offer free consultations for injury cases and you pay no fees for our services until you obtain compensation for your child’s injuries. For further information, call (888) 351-1038 or contact us online.

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