School and public bus accidents are unfortunately, very common. You may also think that bus transportation is safer when taking a long trip, than flying. Statistics show that that’s clearly not true. Sure, charter, tour, or school bus transportation systems are convenient transportation alternatives for individuals who do not own motor vehicles, do not have time to drop off or pick up their children at school, or for individuals taking trips that prefer not to use their own vehicle. However, due to the large size and lack of seat belts in some buses, children and other persons are at a risk for enduring serious injuries resulting from bus accidents.
Buses are considered a common carrier, which is generally defined as a company or individual that serves the general public by transporting people or products. By law, common carriers are responsible for the safety of the goods or individuals being transported. If an accident occurs, the bus company is liable for the injuries or losses.
Since the United States has stricter regulations regarding buses, the rate of accidents in this country is far less than that in the rest of the world. In particular, the U.S. Department of Transportation requires that state transit systems evaluate potential bus drivers with the following criteria:
- Mental examinations
- Physical examinations including drug and alcohol testing
- Review of the driver’s record
- Minimum age requirement
- Personality/attitude evaluation
- Minimum of 5 years of driving experience
In order to better understand why bus accidents occur, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Administration division conducted a bus crash causation study (BCCS) involving motor coach buses, transit buses, school buses, large vans, and small buses. The study examined 39 bus accidents by investigating the scene of the accident, looking at police reports, interviewing the people on the bus, and interviewing bus officials as well.
The study revealed the majority of bus accidents were linked to driver error from either the bus driver or the driver of the vehicle that collided with the bus. The most frequent error committed by bus drivers pertained to inadequate surveillance, while the most common mistake made by the vehicle drivers was entering an intersection or roadway incorrectly. Other less common causes of bus accidents resulted from violations in repair and maintenance on the buses such as brake failure, and pedestrians walking on the roadway or intersection.
Although school bus accidents are not very common, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that an estimated 142 school transportation related fatalities happen each year. To prevent school bus fatalities, Florida law requires vehicles to stop when school buses have flashing red lights and a stop sign extended from both sides. In spite of the law, many individuals choose to pass illegally or do not know the full requirements of the law. What most individuals are unaware of is that drivers on the opposite side of the road are required to stop as well. Drivers that violate the law face the risk of injuring a child and are subject to receiving a citation.
The following are a list of safety tips provided by the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles to avoid school bus related accidents:
- When approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and its stop arms extended, motorists are required to STOP in nearly every instance.
- Be alert and watch for children at all times, but especially near schools, bus stops, school buses, and in school parking lots.
- Obey all traffic laws and speed limits, paying extra attention to the lower speed limits in school zones.
- Do not pass other vehicles in school zones or cross walks.
- Do not change lanes or make U-turns in school zones.
- Watch for and obey all signals from school crossing guards.
- Do not text or use a cell phone while driving.
- Only drive or park in authorized areas to drop off or pick up children at school
At the Law Offices of Cytryn &Velazquez, P.A., we understand that being involved in a bus accident is a traumatic situation, and may take several years to recover from. Our experienced bus accident lawyers have handled numerous bus accident cases and know the adequate steps to take for you or your loved one. Please call our office now at 1-877-853-7466 for your free consultation.