Long Island and New York City students are officially in back-to-school mode. While some will walk, bike, or ride to classes in personal vehicles, millions of students will be hopping back on the big yellow school bus for their daily commute.
Sadly, school buses are not as safe as we would like for riders or other motorists and pedestrians sharing the road. School bus-related accidents take the lives of hundreds of people every year and cause serious injuries to tens of thousands of others. Therefore, it’s essential for the safety of all New Yorkers that you take precautions this school year to avoid preventable accidents.
School Bus Accident Statistics
From 2007 to 2016, the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration (N.H.S.T.A.) reported 1,282 school bus-related fatalities, most of which were pedestrians on sidewalks or crossing the road.
Among these victims, 281 were school-aged children: 116 were occupants of other vehicles, 98 were pedestrians, 58 were riding the bus, 8 were cyclists, and 1 was a non-occupant. The majority of fatal school bus accident victims were individuals 19 years and older. The fatality rates across all age groups including:
– <5 with 11 deaths;
– 5-7 with 44 deaths;
– 8-13 with 57 deaths;
– 14-18 with 44 deaths; and
– 19+ with 178 deaths
An additional study conducted by the National Safety Council (N.S.C.) reported that in 2019 alone, 109 people died in school bus-related accidents. Considering that a school year is approximately 180 days, this leaves only a third of the school year where there are zero school bus-related fatalities.
Most of the fatalities reported in the N.S.C. study involved occupants of other vehicles (79), while the remainder included pedestrians (15), school bus passengers (4), school bus drivers (5), and cyclists (6). Fatal accidents were more common during the morning and afternoon drop-off times, between 6:00 am to 9:00 am and 2:00 pm to 5:00. Several accidents were also recorded from 5:00 pm to 11:59 pm, presumably when buses returned to the bus yards at the end of their shift.
School-Bus Accident Risk Factors
Now that most students are going back to in-person classes, buses will be in full swing once again. School buses tower over most pedestrian vehicles on the road, weighing in at 24,000 pounds. Buses cannot stop as quickly or maneuver as gracefully to avoid road hazards. This incapacity can lead to devastating accidents when encountering smaller vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists on the roads, especially when kids are in tow.
The most common risk factors leading to school bus-related accidents include:
School buses, especially those operating on busy NYC streets, have little room to move around or switch courses quickly. Cars that do not stay alert to school buses stopping can easily rear-end these vehicles when they stop to load/unload. Similarly, bus drivers who are distracted on congested roads can rear-end passenger vehicles in stop-and-go traffic. Congested roads are also far more dangerous for students waiting at the curb or who must cross the street after they exit the bus on their way home.
No one wants to be stuck behind a school bus when they have a place to be, but some drivers will do whatever it takes to get around them– even if it puts others in danger. Reckless drivers have been known to tailgate and weave through buses to avoid becoming stuck. Others try and illegally pass, putting school buses at risk of rollovers, sideswipes, swerving into people or permanent structures, or colliding with other oncoming vehicles.
Accidents that are caused by bus driver errors can sometimes be related to chaotic environments within the vehicle. School buses that operate without proper supervision can lead bus drivers to become distracted or overstimulated. These qualities lead drivers to miss road hazards they would generally catch, leading to increased accidents.
At the start of the school year, accidents often occur when motorists are unprepared for back-to-school traffic and activity. Drivers who are used to commuting every day in the summer can be caught off-guard by the influx of school busses and are not prepared for students waiting on the side of the roads. Dark morning hours can also contribute to accidents, reducing a driver’s visibility.
Lack of Seat Belts
While all school buses are required to install lap belts, not all districts require students to wear them. In the case of an accident, passengers are more likely to propel forward into seats, windows, and other hard components on a bus, leading to traumatic and sometimes fatal injuries.
How To Avoid School Bus Accidents
We send out kids to school to learn, not to become injured during transportation. Most school bus-related accidents are entirely preventable when all parties operate, ride, and share the road with care. It’s up to all of us who share the roads to look out for school buses and students this fall, following proven safety methods to keep everyone safe.
If you are driving in the morning, look out for students crossing the road to their bus stops and busses with flashing lights to signal that a bus is loading/offloading. Give buses plenty of room to move about the road. Keep your speeds low through neighborhoods and school zones and refrain from pulling aggressive maneuvers to get around busses. If you continuously find yourself behind a stopping bus, leave a little early or try to take an alternate route to avoid being late for your commitments. Most importantly: never pass a bus with flashing lights and stop signs activated.
Pedestrians and Cyclists Safety
Pedestrians and cyclists can stay safe by remembering that school buses have a hard time seeing you in the dark or if you cross the road unexpectedly. Never assume that a bus sees you coming or that they will stop when approaching you at an intersection. Remain visible and in designated walking or cycling lanes when available to allow school buses ample room to pass. Please take notice of the bus routes in your area and avoid them whenever possible.
Parents Safety Tips
Keeping your students away from the road and ensuring safe entry/exit strategies are crucial to preventing accidents. Ensure your child is sitting or standing far off the curb to allow the bus room to pull up safely. Supervise your child getting on and off the bus to ensure they are not running across the street without looking both ways. Teach kids that cars may not always see them or stop when they cross the road.
On the bus, remind your child to use calm and quiet voices so that the drivers can concentrate on the road. Encourage them to wear a seatbelt (when available) and to remain seated throughout the ride.
New York City and Long Island Vehicle Accident Attorneys
Our personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Siler & Ingber, have over 20 years of experience serving accident victims across New York City and Long Island. We protect your rights by maximizing recovery and securing the financial support our clients need to succeed on their road to recovery. Our winning defense attorneys are not afraid to take your case to trial to get a justified verdict over settling for less.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a delivery truck accident, our team at Siler & Ingber is here to help. With a 98% success rate, we have the experience and the know-how to help our clients achieve a favorable outcome. Contact us today at 1-877-529-4343, or schedule an appointment using our online form anytime. We never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.