School Bus Accidents
A research update from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 130 school-age pedestrians lost their lives in school-transportation crashes in the last decade.
- 67% of victims were hit by school buses.
- 6% were struck by other vehicles that were in use as school buses.
- 27% of victims were in other vehicles involved in the accidents.
- 57% of the school-age pedestrians who lost their lives were between 5 and 7 years old.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The thought of an innocent child hurt in a school bus accident is enough to distress any parent. But across the U.S., school buses transport as many as 25 million children daily. Even though school systems and bus drivers take part in safety programs and other initiatives that work to make school bus transportation as safe as possible, the bottom line is that accidents still happen. If your child has been hurt in a school bus crash, you need to understand your rights and the options available to you.
Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, have Fort Myers and Naples school bus accident attorneys on staff to answer your questions when a bus crash has left your child hurt. Across Southwest Florida, our firm has become synonymous with community and law enforcement programs that work to improve safety on our roads. Perhaps because Mr. Scheiner and his wife worked together to establish our firm nearly 40 years ago, Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner is a firm that has a special bond with families. In fact, the Scheiners still work side-by-side, along with their son, Associate Attorney Preston Scheiner, to serve those who have been hurt in accidents.
Our Fort Myers and Cape Coral bus accident lawyers know that the serious injury or loss of a child is the most painful event a family can endure. Federal government figures tell us that an average of 19 children die in school-transportation-related accidents every year in our country. Each year, nearly 100 school buses are involved in fatal crashes. Here in Florida, more than 10 people a year on average are killed in school bus-related crashes.
While most of us think of school buses as being the traditional big, yellow vehicles we see frequently on our streets, some school systems use vans or other types of vehicles to transport school-age children. Our Naples and Cape Coral school bus accident attorneys know that safety records of smaller vehicles may not be as good as those of larger buses. We also recognize the fact that visibility of smaller vehicles also may not equal that of bigger, traditional school buses, perhaps contribute to accidents.
Our Fort Myers personal injury and wrongful death lawyers understand that any motor vehicle accident can happen for a variety of reasons. When it comes to school buses, research has found that accidents most commonly happen when buses crash into fixed objects or other vehicles. Buses can injure children by overturning, and injuries and fatalities have been reported when children fall from buses. Fort Myers school bus accident attorneys at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, also know that drivers can be at fault in school bus crashes because they’ve failed to pay close attention to the road, become distracted, or drove while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
When dealing with the aftermath of a school bus accident, your family needs experienced legal advice. You also want the assurance that your attorney has the skills needed to prevail against insurance companies, school systems, or other responsible parties.
Our firm offers you a free consultation to discuss your rights. If you are unable to come to our offices, we will meet with you at your home or in your child’s hospital room. When Fort Myers and Naples residents demand the best in legal representation, they call on Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured. You pay us no fees unless we win.
800-646-1210 – Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner – Focused on Justice
Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, take Florida school bus accidents very seriously.
School buses carry our most precious cargo – our children. We trust that school districts and municipalities will place a high priority on safety. Many do. However, school bus crashes still occur on a daily basis in Florida.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, reported 1,222 school-transportation-related crashes in the last decade, resulting in 1,353 deaths. That breaks down to about 135 fatalities every year.
Most of those – about 71 percent – were occupants in other vehicles involved. About 21 percent were non-occupants, including nearby pedestrians and bicyclists (which includes students). About 8 percent of school bus-related deaths involve those onboard.
Of the 174 school-age children killed in bus crashes during the NHTSA’s analysis, 119 were pedestrians. Sixty-five percent were struck by the school bus, and 35 percent were between the ages of 5 and 7. Another 35 percent were between the ages of 8 and 13.
The Lee County’s school Transportation Department is the seventh-largest in the state. The district has over 700 school buses that transport students not just to school every day, but to numerous school-related functions, such as field trips and sporting events. Approximately 60 percent of students ride the bus regularly to commute to class. In total, buses throughout the system travel about 12 million miles a year.
About 10 years ago, the school system also established “special student” transportation services office, to help better address the transportation needs of students with disabilities.
It’s worth noting the smaller vehicles and vans sometimes used to transport students have a worse safety track record than larger vehicles.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of fatal accidents involving school-age pedestrians and school buses occurs between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., the NHTSA reports. In fatal accidents where school buses were involved in a crash with other vehicles (which was more than half the time), 49 percent involved front-end collisions and 15 percent involved right-end collisions.
In single-vehicle fatal school bus crashes, the most common harmful events were:
- Striking a fixed object
- Vehicle overturning
- Person falling from the vehicle
- Collision with a non-fixed object (pedestrian, cyclists, live animal or train)
It’s true school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing injury and avoiding crashes in the first place, according to the American School Bus Council. They adhere to specific crush, size and height standards, are equipped with flashing red lights and cross-view mirrors, are bright in color, have reinforced sides and have stop sign arms.
But in many cases, driver fatigue, inexperience or carelessness is cited. In some situations, drivers don’t follow traffic regulations, overload buses or may even be under the influence. In other cases, inadequate maintenance of the bus is to blame. We also can’t overlook the possibility of a faulty or defective school bus, at least as a contributing factor.
Although on the surface it may seem there is a single entity responsible for school bus crashes – the school district – there are in fact a number of potentially liable entities in these cases. Those liable may include:
- Bus driver
- Bus owner (i.e., state or local government or, in some cases, private entities)
- Company contracted to conduct bus maintenance
- Bus manufacturer or bus part manufacturer
- Florida city or county in which the accident occurred
- A negligent third party (other driver, etc.)
- In situations where the bus was owned, operated or maintained by the government, there are special rules for the statute of limitations, procedural guidelines for filing, and caps on damages.
- School buses that transport children are considered common carriers, which means they owe a heightened duty of care to passengers. What’s more, children have long been recognized by the courts as being owed special protection.
- Employers of school bus drivers must be careful to establish procedures that require operators to:
- Drive the bus with due care;
- Activate warnings, including extended stop sign and red flashing lights, anytime a student is boarding or leaving the bus;
- Make sure nearby traffic has stopped before allowing a child to get on or off the bus;
- Watch to ensure a child has safely crossed the street before boarding and after exiting.
While parents and caregivers cannot control actions of the driver or district, they can help teach their children safe practices around a bus. These include:
- Taking three big steps away from the curb when the bus approaches and line up away from the street.
- Wait until the bus stops, door opens and driver says it’s Ok before moving toward the bus.
- If you have to walk in front of the bus, take at least five giant steps in front of the bus before crossing, and make sure you can see the driver and the driver can see you.
- Never walk behind a bus.
- If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation