Summer break is winding down and we are now approaching fall, which means school is back in session across the country. This means that you will see school buses on the road during your commute and as you run errands during the day.
If you are a parent, you do not have to be concerned about allowing your child to ride the bus. School buses are the safest vehicles on the road. In fact, your child is 70 times more likely to arrive at school safely when riding a bus as opposed to the family car.
This does not mean, however, that buses are invincible to traffic accidents. School bus accidents do still occur, and they can, in some cases, result in serious injuries and even death. Here is what you should know about how these accidents occur, who is liable, and the safety standards in place.
How do School Bus Accidents Happen?
The top cause of school bus accidents is driver distraction. Just like drivers of passenger vehicles, bus drivers also face distractions. These distractions often occur within the vehicle. Bus drivers are often responsible for dozens of students at one time, and this can easily cause them to be distracted.
Student caused distractions include a bus driver reaching for a dropped backpack or book and talking to passengers. Furthermore, bus drivers may feel the need to discipline a naughty student while trying to focus on the road ahead. In fact, many discipline issues on buses often escalate to fights and assaults, and bus drivers are often not prepared for this.
Other types of distractions can result from a bus driver’s own negligence including texting and other forms of cell phone use, eating and drinking, adjusting the radio, and adjusting controls on the bus.
Finally, other common causes of bus accidents are more situational. Many areas are in need of school bus drivers, and the required training in NY can take as long as 12 weeks to complete, leading to longer routes, and more crowded buses for the already certified. Road conditions, lack of space and poor bus maintenance are common issues, as well which may be out of the bus driver’s control.
Safety Standards in Place
The good thing about buses is that they are heavily regulated and are therefore deemed extremely safe. Buses are large and highly visible, so they can be seen by other motorists. Safety features include flashing lights, stop-sign arms, and specially designed mirrors. To protect passengers, they have protective seats, seatbelts and rollover protection. Buses are also protected by the law, meaning that motorists cannot pass a bus while a passenger is getting on or off.
Who is Liable for Bus Accidents?
Liability for a school bus accident can vary based on how the accident occurred. For example, an accident caused by the bus driver’s distractions or negligence could result in the bus driver being held liable. If another vehicle was involved and that vehicle rear-ended the school bus, passed the bus illegally or engaged in some other driving maneuver that led to an accident, then the driver of that vehicle could likely be at fault.
Sometimes school bus accidents are caused by defects and malfunctions. To determine who is liable, it helps to understand how the defect caused the accident. For example, if a blown tire led to an accident, was it because the tire had no tread and was not properly maintained? If so, then the school may be at fault for improper maintenance. However, if there was a known defect with the tires and the manufacturer did nothing to remedy the situation, then the school bus manufacturer could be considered negligent as well.
Get Legal Help from a Brooklyn Auto Accident Lawyer
Buses are much safer than passenger vehicles, but accidents can still occur. In many cases, they are caused by negligent drivers who are distracted or lack proper training. Some buses are owned by the NYC Transit Authority or public agencies so do not hesitate to contact an attorney immediately.
If your child was injured in a school bus accident, seek legal help. You may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. The Law Office of Jeffrey K. Kestenbaum can help you file a claim. Contact our Brooklyn office at (718) 237-5586 to learn about your legal options.