Last week, a bus carrying 41 students to Terry Parker High School slammed into a car. Four students were treated for minor injuries.
Durham school services operate 189 routes throughout the county and all buses are equipped with seat belts. Student Transportation of America, the operator involved in Tuesday morning's crash, runs 220 routes in the district and claimed:
"All of our buses have seat belts and drivers are instructed to tell the kids to wear them."
This accident has raised again the question about school bus safety and the importance of wearing a seatbelt.
Studies have shown that if a school bus is involved in an accident, a roll or flip of the bus will have the passengers bumping into each other, causing more injuries. These unnecessary complications can be avoided if every occupant is restrained by seat belts.
Buckling up before hitting the road is something most people do without giving it much thought, but the problem is that when it comes to a bus ride to school, buckling up is often the last thing on children's mind.
That's why it's recommended that parents talk with their kids about the importance of being safe and wearing a seat belt, even on a school bus.
The Importance of Wearing Seat Belts, Especially on School Buses in Miami
Experts claim that taking a bus to school is the safest way to get there. Still, accidents sometimes happen, and your child may face other hazards on a bus besides the risk of being injured in a motor vehicle crash. When it comes to getting kids safely to and from school, there are always things that can be improved.
Nationwide, yellow school buses collectively travel more than 4 billion miles and transport 26 million students every school day, providing more than 9 billion student rides every year. The student occupant fatality rate is of 6/year and the injury rate of less than 0.2%. On the other hand, between 1994 and 2004, 71 passengers on school buses died in crashes.
All statistics pale when we see on the news the photo of a single child that died, and we know it could've been prevented by the single act of wearing a belt.
In October 2005 a bus taking kids home from school ran off the shoulder of a narrow, winding dirt road and flipped on its side. None of the 28 children on board was injured because all of them were wearing seatbelts.
Florida Laws Concerning School Bus Safety
Florida is actually among the six U.S. states (together with California, Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana and New York) that have laws concerning seat belts on school buses.
According to the State of Florida's laws, new school buses purchased on and after January 1, 2001, are required to have seat belts or other federally-approved restraint systems.
School districts have the obligation to ensure that elementary schools receive first priority when they allocate school buses with seat belts. Each school bus passenger has to wear a properly adjusted belt.
If an accident occurs school bus passengers may suffer injuries because:
- They weren't wearing a seatbelt, or
- Of another passenger's use or non-use of a seat belt in a dangerous or unsafe manner.
The following parties are exempted from liability:
- The state
- School districts
- School bus operators
- And any of the related agents (teachers, volunteer chaperones, etc.)
Federal school bus requirements mention different types of seat belts:
- Lap belts (an adjustable strap that goes over the waist)
- Lap/shoulder, or three-point, belts (a lap belt plus an adjustable sash that goes over the shoulder, made of one single continuous length of webbing).
Due to the fact that studies proved that 3-point belts provide far more protection than lap belts, in 2009, NHTSA upgraded its school bus seat belt requirements. Among other things, the main requests were:
- That small school buses have three-point belts (rather than the less safe lap belts)
- Establishing safety and performance standards for 3-point belts installed voluntarily on large school buses.
Miami School Bus Injuries and Liability
From the legal liability point of view, injuries and fatalities sustained by children as occupants of buses (as well as while in the process of getting onto or off school bus) raise the similar issues as those related to a car collision case.
School Boards or private bus service operators for school transportation are required to have motor vehicle liability insurance coverage that provides both liability coverage as well as Section B coverage for medical expenses and death benefits.
Besides this, a different insurance coverage can also be available through school insurance programs.
In case a child is injured after leaving the school bus, the motor vehicle insurance may still provide coverage and benefits, depending on whether the injury was sustained in the "use or operation" of the bus and that particular incident's circumstances.
In the unfortunate case of injuries sustained by children while on or around a school bus, liability can be established in a number of ways:
- Driver's negligence
- Insufficient driver attention when monitoring the entrances and exits off buses
- Driver allowing bus overcrowding and allowing children to stand on buses
- Failure of driver's ability to monitor children's activities during the bus ride
- Inappropriate bus maintenance
- Improper use of flashing lights
- Improper bus design
- Insufficient driver screening or training
- Improper driver fitness (health, eyesight).
How Can Miami Lawyer, Sean M. Cleary, Help?
Statistics claim 17,000 American kids are treated in emergency rooms every year after being injured on buses.
The multiple resulting injuries caused by school bus accidents and wearing/not wearing seat belts may involve taking action against the school bus driver, the school bus operator or the school district. These cases are different from regular car accidents.
The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary bring to the table the ability to quickly analyze such cases and investigate who/what caused the accident and then take the right steps to get compensation for the victims.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an incident involving a school bus, you should contact The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary as soon as possible to ensure that evidence is collected and that all necessary action is taken to secure the claim.
We will make sure that you will receive coverage for your losses and medical expenses.