One of the most utilized modes of transportation in the United States is the bus. School buses take children to school; public buses run routes and act as accessible transportation, transporting people to and from work and other destinations; interstate buses take travelers from city to city; and charter buses transport inclusive groups to their chosen locations. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates that in 2014 there were roughly 872,000 buses in the U.S. Buses, in fact, are such a part of American life that they often go unnoticed, melting into the backdrop of scenes we see every day.
While it is true that buses are one of the safest modes of transportation available, they are not without their dangers. As BTS reports, in 2014 alone, there were 233 fatalities nationwide as a result of bus accidents. And, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), between 2014 and 2015, the number of buses in fatal crashes increased from 236 to 261, representing an increase of one percent; and total involvement in fatal crashes jumped nine percent.
Let the New Haven Law Firm of Ronald M. Scherban Help
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of an accident involving a bus, let The Law Firm of Ronald M. Scherban help. With over 40 years of experience in personal injury law, we have the knowledge and resources necessary to pursue your claim and help you get the compensation you deserve. If you have questions or would like an evaluation of your claim contact us online. The evaluation is free, and you pay no out-of-pocket expenses until your case is closed.
By far, the largest category of buses on the roads are school buses. More than 500,000 students are taken to and from school each day in Connecticut. And, as proven statistically by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), school buses are without doubt the safest mode of transportation for students; students riding a bus are shown to be 70 times more likely to arrive at school and home safely than those traveling in a car. On average, four to six children die in bus accidents each year. This represents less than one percent of all fatalities nationwide and pales in comparison to the average of 2,000 child fatalities that occur each year in other motor-vehicle accidents. Federal and local regulations for school buses go far beyond the safety standards required of the average motor vehicle, and even beyond the safety standards for other types of buses. According to NHTSA, school buses are, by far, the most regulated vehicles on the road. Standard regulations include:
- Design: Because of their purpose, school buses are designed to be as visible as possible to everyone using the road; most are bright yellow, and flashing lights and signs indicate their position and exactly what they are doing, whether stopping for safety at railroad tracks or loading and unloading children. The seats themselves are designed for safety, and buses are required to have rollover protection features.
- Emergency Exit: This ensures an alternative exit from the bus in the case of an emergency.
- Laws: The stop sign on school buses has the rule of law behind it. When the arm is extended, it is illegal in all 50 states for drivers to pass, no matter from which direction they approach.
Connecticut Driver Certification
The largest part of the safety of the school bus and the children it carries is the driver. Federal and state rules and regulations make sure through tests and written exams that the driver is thoroughly prepared for the responsibility they are undertaking. In order to drive a school bus in Connecticut, an applicant must:
- Obtain a CDL license, as well as classes P, V, S, F and A endorsements. The endorsements are special qualifications above and beyond the CDL license.
- Go through a background test
- Pass a drug screening (drug screenings continue periodically to keep licenses up to date)
- Have and maintain a clean driving record
- Undergo a medical review
- Obtain special training and certification.
Federal and local regulations for both charter and public buses, while less strict than for school buses, are still more strict than for passenger vehicles and some large trucks. These vehicles are responsible for millions of passenger trips each year – especially public city buses, which transport people around urban environments. A study by the National Transportation Safety Board done in 2009 shows that the bus fatality rate was 45 deaths per 100,000 accidents, while the rate for cars and other motor vehicles was 251 per 100,000 accidents.
Most Common Bus Crash Causes
While each crash is different, some causes of bus accidents are more common than others. In most cases, the causes are similar to collisions involving regular motor vehicles. A few of the most common include:
- Distracted Driving: Distracted driving, defined as not paying full attention to the road, is the leading cause of accidents in almost all motor vehicles. In buses this is especially true, not only because of the size and weight of the vehicle, but because of the potential for distraction from passengers.
- Speeding: Again, because of the inherent design of buses, including size and weight, speeding limits maneuverability and reaction time.
- Fatigue: This is a problem for tour bus drivers who travel long distances, but it also affects both school and public transportation drivers, whose routes often take long hours and incorporate numerous stops. Fatigue negatively affects reaction time and judgment.
Liability is often difficult to determine in the case of bus crashes because of the number of individuals, companies and, in the case of school buses, government entities that may be involved. Each part of the chain, including the manufacturer, may bear some degree of liability, but defining exactly who is responsible or who bears how much responsibility can often be challenging. Because of this, it is highly recommended that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible if you have been in an accident involving a bus. An experienced attorney will explain the options you have moving forward and deal with the responsible parties while you concentrate on your recovery.
The Law Firm of Ronald M. Scherban in New Haven has more than 40 years of experience pursuing personal injury cases. The firm has the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to serve your legal needs. If you have questions or would like to schedule a free evaluation, contact us online.