The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) calls school buses “the safest vehicle on the road,” but 4-6 children are killed in school bus crashes every year. According to the National Safety Council, 109 people (bus passengers, occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists) were killed in crashes involving school buses in 2019, while 13,000 people were injured. Roughly 5,000 of those people were children riding school buses.

So while school bus crashes are not common, your child’s risk of a school bus crash is not zero. That’s why it’s important to be aware of how school bus crashes happen, what to do if you or your child is in a crash involving a school bus, and how to avoid school bus crashes when on the road.

How Do School Bus Crashes Happen?

Driver Error:

Driver error is the most common cause of school bus wrecks. Because buses are so much larger than other passenger vehicles and handle differently, inexperienced or distracted drivers can cause crashes. Other drivers can also cause crashes when they don’t know the proper and safe way to navigate around school buses. And just like in any other type of vehicle crash, drunk, drowsy, or distracted drivers are another major source of school bus wrecks.

Blind Spots:

There are more blind spots on a school bus than on a normal car, and they are also much bigger. These blind spots are located just below and in front of the side mirrors, and directly behind the bus for at least 50 feet (about four car lengths), although the rear blind spot can be much larger depending on the size of the bus. Other drivers may be unaware of the blind spots on a bus, leading to a crash.

Left Turns:

Because school buses are so long, they may require two lanes to fully turn. Crashes can happen when a school bus attempts to turn left from the right lane or vice versa, and a car moving forward in the adjacent lane collides with it head-on.

Weather Conditions:

Buses can be difficult to safely navigate on wet roads or in strong winds, making wrecks more likely.

Bus Company Negligence:

Most schools look to bus companies to manage their buses for them. When bus companies hire inexperienced drivers, drivers without commercial driving licenses, or fail to provide proper training for drivers or proper maintenance on buses, they can be held liable for resulting crashes.

Exiting the Vehicle:

Drivers in both directions of traffic are required to come to a halt when a school bus is picking up or dropping off passengers. Although this type of accident may not involve the bus, school children can also be injured when they are exiting a stopped school bus and another driver attempts to drive around or past the bus.

What Should You Do After a Bus Crash?

Make sure to have a conversation with your child discussing what to do in the event of a bus crash so they can be prepared if this situation ever arises. Discussing it beforehand can help keep them calm and reduce fear in the event of a collision. They may have also participated in bus safety drills at school that cover this information.

In minor accidents, children should stay calm and wait inside until they can be helped out of the bus by first responders. If there is a need to exit the bus, such as a fire, they should exit via the front door. If the front is damaged, they should use the rear emergency exit. Older students should assist younger students. Once they’ve exited, they should move to a safe spot off the road at least 50 feet from the bus and wait for instructions from an adult, such as the bus driver or an emergency responder.

Make sure your child has an emergency number to reach you at, whether a cell phone or work phone, so you can be informed of the crash.

After a crash, parents should bring their children to their doctor or the hospital for a checkup, even if they don’t appear injured. Many injuries from crashes may not show symptoms right away, especially soft tissue injuries like whiplash. Keep all information provided to you about the crash by the school, police department, and any other sources in a safe space. You will need it if an injury claim is necessary.

How to Safely Drive Around Buses

It can be frustrating to get caught behind a slow-moving vehicle that makes frequent stops like a school bus, but drivers sharing the road with school buses must always take extra precautions to make sure they don’t cause a crash and put themselves and others, especially children, at risk.

  • Slow down. Check to see if you are in a school zone. If so, reduced speed limits may apply. Even if you aren’t in a school zone, you should remember that buses take longer to come to a stop than smaller vehicles, and if you are following too closely and going too fast, you may not be able to stop in time to avoid a rear-end collision if the bus begins to slow or stop.
  • NEVER drive around or past a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing or stop sign extended. This means children are exiting the bus, and may be crossing both lanes of traffic to reach the other side of the street. This isn’t just a safety tip, either; it’s the law.
  • Make sure the bus driver has a chance to see you before attempting to pass, and never pass on the right side. Watch for hand signs as well. If the driver expects to be stopped for a while, and the bus’s red lights aren’t illuminated, they may signal you to pass on the left.
  • Show caution when crossing railroad tracks if a bus is ahead, as buses are required to stop at all railroad crossings, even when the traffic light is green and regardless of whether a train is on the way.
  • Most importantly, be patient! Too many crashes involving school buses are caused by drivers who are eager to get around slow moving buses and end up driving recklessly.

Bus Crash? Call Gary Bruce.

Auto accidents are stressful, and if your child was injured in a bus crash through someone else’s negligence, your family deserves compensation, and the person who put your child and others at risk should be held accountable. Contact the experienced auto accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Gary Bruce today to learn what your next steps are if your child was injured in a school bus wreck via a free, no-obligation consultation.