This time of year, many parents will be consumed with school supply lists, shopping, haircuts, and everything back-to-school-related! This is an exciting time of year for both students and parents, but it is also a time to be extra vigilant on the roads as students head to bus stops or walk to school.
Parents expect their children to arrive at school and home safely, yet that is not always the case. While riding the bus is the safest way for kids to get to school, school bus accidents can happen. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 124 people per year were killed on average between 2008-2017 in the United States.
Although the percentages for school bus accidents are small, we can all do our part to keep our roads safe for our children. Here are a few statistics to keep in mind:
- Seventy percent of those who died during this time period were in other vehicles (besides the buses) involved in the accident.
- Twenty percent of fatalities were not occupants in any vehicle (meaning they were bicyclists, pedestrians, or others).
- Ten percent of fatalities were occupants of the school transportation vehicles.
This is just a reminder that no matter where we are or how we’re getting to our destination, as the roads begin to see more school buses, accidents can, and do happen. As we head back into the school year, here are tips for drivers, parents, and students to stay safe on the road, plus reasons why someone may be liable in a school bus accident.
Drivers: Know the Rules of the Road
When you get behind the wheel, you have the legal obligation to drive responsibly, obey traffic laws, and share the road with other vehicles, including school buses. In addition to following the standard rules of the road, there are other laws to be aware of to keep our kids safe. Pennsylvania’s school bus traffic law outlines the following:
- Motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from buses with their lights flashing and stop arm extended. Buses will use these features when at a school bus stop.
- Drivers must stop behind a bus, when meeting a bus, or when approaching an intersection where a bus is located.
- Motorists traveling alongside a bus must stop when the lights are flashing, and the safety arm or extended stop sign is in use. Drivers must remain at a stop until all children have reached safety and the bus driver turns off the lights and retracts the safety arm.
- If there is a median, concrete barrier, guide rails, or a grassy area separating oncoming traffic, motorists may continue traveling without stopping.
Traffic violations related to violating the school bus stopping law are understandably harsh and can include at least a $250 fine, five points on your driving record, and a 60-day driving suspension.
Obeying traffic laws is only the first step for drivers. There are plenty of other ways to keep our kids safe. Here are some tips to keep in mind when hitting the road during back-to-school season:
- Be patient. Sharing the road with a school bus may mean frequent stops and starts and can result in traffic congestion. Be patient if you are traveling behind or near a school bus. The important thing is to keep the well-being of school-aged children in mind.
- Children are unpredictable. Many children, especially little ones, may be excited or anxious to get on a school bus, or even excited as they wait for the bus to arrive. Be on high alert and watch for kids that may dart into the street or wander away from the bus stop.
- Be mindful of blind spots. Even with large mirrors, school buses may not be able to see drivers clearly. Remember, if you cannot see the bus mirrors, the driver cannot see you. Only pass a bus on the left side.
- Be aware of bus driver hand signals. Sometimes, a bus driver may be stopped for an extended period of time and may motion you to move around the bus slowly and safely.
School bus safety should be a top priority for all drivers, no matter what time of year. If you are sharing the road with a school bus, keep the above tips in mind. Even when practicing safe driving and bus stop safety, sometimes an accident may occur. If your child is ever injured in a school bus accident, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney to understand your rights. While we hope you never need us for this kind of legal representation, know we are here to help.
Parents & Students: Be Alert and Put Safety First
If your child rides the bus to school, walks, or rides a bike, it’s important to take some time before the school year begins to remind them of how to be safe. Safety isn’t only the responsibility of drivers, but also parents and students.
Here are some tips for both parents and students to keep in mind as we head into the new school year:
- Children should arrive at their bus stop five minutes early to avoid having to rush to catch a bus. When rushed, kids may fall or dart into traffic.
- When waiting at a bus stop, children should stay as far away from traffic as possible. If there is a bus shelter, use it. If there isn’t a bus shelter, stay at least five giant steps away from the curb.
- If your child needs to cross the street to get to his or her bus stop, cross with care! Wait for the school bus to stop, turn on its lights, and the extend stop arm is extended.
- When on the bus, students should remain in their seats and talk quietly so the bus driver is not distracted.
- Never cross the street behind a school bus.
- If a student is running late, never run to try to catch the bus. Once a bus is moving, it may be hard for the bus driver to hear or see a student who is running nearby.
- For children that walk to school, parents should walk the route with their child, especially small children, several times before the school year. Obey the crossing guards and only cross the street when instructed.
- Some older children may ride their bikes to school. If your child is a bike rider, make sure they are confident in their skills, have experience, and know bicycle safety rules.
School Bus Accident Liability
Unfortunately, even with safe driving and safe behavior at school bus stops, sometimes an accident can happen. When an accident happens and it involves a young child, it can be terrifying and a parent’s worst nightmare. If your child is involved in a bus accident, you have the right to hold the person or persons responsible for the accident accountable. While many school bus accidents aren’t serious, some may result in injury.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may be able to file a personal injury case after a bus accident. You may be able to recover compensation to help pay for medical bills, pain and suffering, and in the case where an adult is injured, lost wages.
Liability may fall to one person, several persons, or even the school district or the bus company if there was negligence on the part of the bus driver. Examples of negligence include:
- Distracted driving
- Driving too fast or reckless driving
- Following a school bus too closely
- Impaired driving
- School district failing to conduct proper background checks
- District fails to train the driver adequately
- District fails to inspect the bus for safety
Emotions are high after a bus accident and a personal injury law firm can help you determine the best course of action while you focus on helping your child recover. If your child was involved in an accident while on the way to school, don’t talk to the school district’s insurance company before talking to a personal injury lawyer.
We Wish You a Safe, Happy & Productive School Year
Back-to-school is an exciting time for students, parents, teachers, and administrators! The team at Dale E. Anstine Personal Injury Law Firm wishes you a safe, happy, and productive year!
While we hope you never need our services, know we are here in the rare circumstance you or your child are involved in a school bus accident. We offer free consultations and are here 24/7 to help.