Are School Buses Safe Enough?

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A typical car accident is a harrowing experience for anyone, but an accident involving a school bus full of children can be even more traumatic. Early this month, a Fresno man died after crashing into a Central Unified School District Bus, which injured several high school students. Last year, a school bus driver in Tennessee crashed while texting and driving, resulting in the deaths of two children and a teacher’s aide. In 2010, 21 students were injured in a bus collision. Millions of children travel to school by bus every day, but how safe are they?

Facts Contradict Sensational News Stories

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), school buses are the safest way to transport children to and from school. Compared to 58 percent of student fatalities occurring with teen drivers and 23 percent of adult drivers, school buses account for only one percent of student fatalities per year. The NHTSA also reported that every school bus keeps an estimated 17.3 million cars off of school roadways each year, saving billions of dollars and potential opportunities for collisions. Approximately six children die per year as a result of school bus accidents, whereas over 2,000 children are killed in car collisions every year.

Regulations in Place, But Seatbelts Still a Concern

It is a relief to know that school bus fatalities are rare, but there is always room for improvement. The government has implemented 35 safety standards to ensure school bus safety, including driver licensing and training, fire safety standards, and camera or video technology to ensure children’s safety, and these standards certainly keep collision and fatality rates down. In fact, the government’s traffic safety literature states that school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury

Government regulations cover seatbelt and compartmentalization standards for crash protection, requiring smaller school buses carrying over 16 students to contain lap-shoulder seatbelts. Larger buses do not require seatbelts due to enhanced compartmentalization safety standards (i.e. seat height and distance) that protect riders in the event of a collision. However, even smaller buses manufactured prior to 2005 are not required to have seatbelts. As recently as 2005, studies have suggested that installation is unnecessary. The study, initiated by Alabama Governor Bob Riley after a fatal bus crash in Huntsville, stated that buses were safe enough without seatbelts. The study further asserted that the cost of seatbelts, up to $15,000 per bus, would be more effectively used in loading and unloading measures, where most accidents occur. Whether the study is correct remains to be seen, as school bus crashes are fortunately unusual, but common sense suggests that all school buses carrying children should have the strictest safety measures, including seatbelts, in place.

If You or Your Child Has Been in a Bus Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus or other auto accident, contact the experienced San Diego auto accident attorneys at The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers for help. Call us today for a free case consultation with no obligation to see what we can do for you.

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