For kids throughout Missouri, the end of summer means one thing: the return of the school year. And, the return of the school means another thing: the return of school buses to the roads of Missouri.
While the big yellow-buses are one of the safest modes of transportation for students, Missouri school bus accidents occasionally occur. If bus drivers, other motorists and students aren’t cautious, accidents involving these large vehicles can have tragic consequences.
A recent fatal auto accident on I-44 near St. Louis serves as a sad reminder of the possible consequences of accidents involving school buses.
Two school buses carrying a high school band on a trip to Six Flags were involved in a chain-reaction rear-end pile-up in early August 2011. CNN reports that the accident involved the two school buses, a semi-truck and an SUV. The accident occurred when the SUV rear-ended the semi, which in turn led to the first bus rear-ending the SUV and the second bus rear-ending the first.
The motor vehicle accident left two dead, a 15-year-old student on the first bus and a 19-year-old passenger in the SUV, and resulted in approximately 50 injuries. Over forty people with injuries were transported to area hospitals. A 16-year-old student’s injuries were severe enough to require transport to a St. Louis hospital via helicopter, according to CNN.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the cause of the accident, but stated that at the time of the accident there was road construction and traffic congestion on the section of I-44 where the crash occurred. According to Jeff Wilson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, at the time of the collision, the semi was stopped on the road due to the construction.
Bus Accident Statistics
Despite the tragic August-accident, riding a school bus in Missouri remains a very safe way to travel. Missourinet.com reports that in 2010 school buses were involved in a mere 0.7 percent of Missouri motor vehicle accidents ; and, school buses were involved in just 0.5 percent of Missouri’s fatal auto accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that on average “19 school-age occupants of school transportation vehicles” are killed every year. This equates to 0.34 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities throughout the United States.
Of the fatal accidents involving school children in the United States, most involve pedestrians rather than actual wrecks between buses and other vehicles. In the NHTSA’s 2009 data, 130 pedestrians under the age of 19 were killed in accidents involving school buses and other school-related transportation vehicles. Two-thirds of pedestrians killed were hit by buses and 27 percent were struck by non-school related vehicles (presumably after exiting the bus). Over 40 percent of the pedestrian-children killed in these accidents were between the ages of 5 and 7, according to the NHTSA.
School Bus Safety Tips
Even though school bus transportation involves very few accidents and fatalities, steps to improve the safety of Missouri’s school-aged children should be taken.
For drivers on the road, there are proactive actions that can be taken, including:
- Always stop for a stopped bus with its flashing-lights on, whether you are behind the bus or approaching the bus (drivers approaching a stopped bus on the other side of a divided road do not need to stop, but should be vigilant of kids possibly running across the street)
- Always watch for kids crossing the street near buses
- Slow to the posted “School Zone” speed limits
- Especially watch for children during the hours school lets out, typically 3 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Parents should review proper behavior with students who ride the bus. According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, students should:
- Wait for the bus, including lining up to board the bus, away from the road
- Do not approach the bus until it has come to a complete stop and the doors are opened
- Board the bus orderly, one at a time
While on the bus, students should:
- Face forward
- Remain seated while the bus is in motion
- Do not block the aisle
- Do not distract the bus driver
- Never stick arms, heads or other objects out of the bus windows
The National Safety Council offers the following safety tips for students exiting or crossing in front of the bus:
- Remain seated until the bus has come to a complete stop
- Always cross in front of the bus at a distance where the bus driver can see you (no closer than 10 feet from the front of the bus)
- Do not cross in front of the bus until the bus driver gives you a signal that it is safe to cross the street
- Stay a safe distance from the bus, especially the rear wheels
Of course, even with all these precautions sometimes accidents will occur. If your child is involved in an accident involving a school bus, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about your rights and options.