School buses are an important and necessary mode of transportation whereby children get to school. According to the website Schoolbus Fleet, in the 2018-2019 school year, an estimated 479,867 yellow school buses provide transportation services daily in the United States. About 23 million elementary and secondary school children ride school buses to and from school each day.
School bus accidents also have the potential to cause major injuries and tragic fatalities. A number of these crashes can be avoided with more safety features. School districts and bus companies also have a responsibility to transport students safely to and from school. If your child has been injured in a school bus crash, an experienced Los Angeles school bus accident lawyer can help you better understand your legal rights and options.
What Time Do Most School Bus Accidents Happen?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2007 and 2016, there were 1,282 people killed in crashes relating to school transportation. That is about 128 deaths each year. Occupants of school buses and school transportation vehicles accounted for 9% of the deaths while non-occupants of school transportation vehicles – pedestrians and bicyclists – accounted for 20% of the fatalities. The statistics also show that 70% were occupants of other vehicles.
During this 10-year time period, 98 school transportation-related deaths were school age pedestrians. Most school bus deaths occurred between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. – in the morning when children begin to arrive and again in the afternoon when they leave school.
School Bus Accidents Fatalities
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), school bus crashes killed 54 people nationwide in 2020, down by more than 50% compared to 2019. It is likely that this sharp decline was because of fewer school bus trips occurring during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. NHTSA defines a school bus crash as any crash in which a vehicle, regardless of body design, used as a school bus is directly or indirectly involved. This also includes incidents involving school children getting in or out of a vehicle.
Between 2011 and 2020, about 70%of the deaths in school bus-related crashes were occupants of vehicles other than the school bus and 16% were pedestrians. About 5% were school bus passengers, 5% were school bus drivers and 3% were bicyclists. Of the people who were injured in school bus-related crashes from 2011 to 2020, about 33% were school bus passengers, 8% were school bus drivers and 54% were occupants of other vehicles.
Are School Buses Safe For Our Kids?
According to NHTSA, school buses are generally safe. In fact, the federal agency says U.S. students are nearly eight times safer riding in a school bus than with their own parents and guardians in private vehicles. The fatality rate for school buses is 0.2 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled compared to 1.5 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled for cars.
NHTSA attributes this school bus safety record to the Department of Transportation's requirements for compartmentalization on large school buses, and lap belts plus compartmentalization on small school buses. Regardless of how safe children may be in school buses, accidents do continue to occur because other variables such as bus driver negligence, poor bus maintenance, dangerous roadway conditions, bus defects, etc.
California School Bus Regulations
California has some of the most stringent school bus regulations in the nation. Drivers in the state are required to secure a California Special Driver Certificate that is issued by the California Highway Patrol's School Bus Program in addition to obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL) from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
School bus drivers are also subject to drug screening and background checks. They are required to go through 10 additional hours of training each year. Every five years, school bus drivers are required to take the entire School Bus Program course to get re-certified. School bus drivers also have additional responsibilities on the job. Each time before they get on the road, they are required to perform a 20-minute safety check. All school buses in California are required to have three-point seatbelts if they were purchased after July 2004 or 2005, depending on the size and design of the bus. California law will mandate all school buses to have seatbelts by the year 2035.
School Bus Safety Tips for Parents and Kids
Here are some valuable tips for school bus safety:
- Be sure to get to the bus stop at least a few minutes early. Teach your child to stand at least 6 feet away from the curb and to not engage in horseplay when they are waiting for the bus.
- Make sure your child waits for the bus to a complete stop with the door open before getting in. Your child should wait for the driver to indicate it is safe to get in and use the handrail while boarding the bus.
- Children should not walk behind the bus and should maintain at least a 10-foot distance when they walk across the street in front of the bus. Children should be taught to make eye contact with the bus driver while crossing so they can be sure the driver sees them.
- While inside the bus, children should stay in their seats and not stick their body parts outside the window.
- Children should also wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting up from their seat.
- When they get off the bus, they should cross the road carefully after looking to left, then right and left again.
What You Should Do if You Suffer a School Bus Accident
If your child has been injured in a school bus crash, it is important to know and understand your rights. The school district is a government entity. So, if you are thinking about filing a lawsuit against the school district, California law requires you to file a notice of claim within six months of the incident.
The process of filing a claim, collecting evidence and fighting for your rights can be a long and hard road. The experienced Los Angeles school bus accident lawyers at the Vaziri Law Group Personal Injury Attorneys advise victims and their families to seek prompt medical attention. The process of filing a claim and seeking compensation for losses such as medical expenses and pain and suffering can be challenging and intimidating because of the complex process involved. Call us to find out how we can help you secure maximum compensation for your losses and hold the at-fault parties accountable.