4 out of 41 students were treated for minor injuries after a school bus carrying them to Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville, FL, collided with a car. Student Transportation of America, the operator involved in the accident:
- operates 220 routes in the District
- claimed at the time that all of their buses have seat belts and drivers are instructed to tell children to wear them
This car accident has once again raised the question of the safety of school buses and the importance of seat belts. Studies have shown that when a school bus is involved in a car accident, the occupants collide with each other if the bus rolls over or flips over, resulting in more severe injuries. These unnecessary complications can be avoided if every occupant is restrained by wearing seat belts.
Buckling up before hitting the road is something most people do without giving it much thought, but the problem is that buckling up is often the last thing the children have in mind when it comes to a bus ride to school. That is why parents are advised to talk to their children about the importance of being safe and wearing a seat belt, even on school buses.
Why Seat Belts Are Important, Especially on School Buses
Experts claim that taking the bus to school is the safest way to get there. Nevertheless, sometimes car accidents happen, and your child may be at risk of being injured, but there are also other dangers on a bus. When it comes to getting children to school safely, there are always things that can be improved.
Nationwide, the yellow school buses together:
- Travel more than 4 billion miles
- Carry 26 million students every school day
- Provide more than 9 billion school trips per year
The student mortality rate is 6/year, and the accident rate is less than 0.2%. On the other hand, 71 passengers died in a school bus accident over the course of 10 years. All statistics fade when we see the photo of a single dead child in the news, and we know that fatal injuries could have been prevented by the single act of wearing a seat belt. For example, in October 2005, a bus carrying children home from school veered off the road on a narrow winding road and flipped onto its side. None of the 28 children on board was injured because they were all wearing seat belts.
When to Use Seat Belts: Florida School Bus Safety Laws
Along with California, Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana, and New York, Florida is one of the six US states that have laws on seat belts on school buses. Under Florida state law, new school buses must have seat belts or other federally-approved restraint systems. School districts are required to ensure that primary schools are given priority when distributing school buses with seat belts. Each school bus passenger has to wear a properly adjusted seat belt.
In the event of an accident, school bus passengers may suffer injuries because:
- They were not strapped on
- Seat belt by another passenger in an unsafe manner
- Non-use of a seat belt by another passenger
The federal school bus regulations mention several types of seat belts:
- Lap belt (an adjustable strap that goes over the waist)
- Lap/shoulder or 3-point belt (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 have shown that 3-point seat belts offer much more protection than lap belts, NHTSA upgraded its safety requirements for school buses. Among other things, the main requests were:
- That small school buses have 3-point seat belts instead of the less-safe lap belts
- Establishing safety and performance standards for 3-point belts installed voluntarily in large school buses
Miami School Bus Accidents: Common Injuries and Liability
Statistics show that 17,000 American children are treated in emergency rooms each year after getting injured on school buses. Not wearing seat belts can lead to numerous injuries in the case of an accident:
- Brain injuries
- Head injuries
- Neck injuries
From the point of view of legal liability, the questions are similar to those raised in car accidents, even though the injuries and deaths are suffered by children:
- As passengers of school buses
- When boarding or exiting a school bus
School Board or private bus service operators for school transportation must have auto insurance coverage, including liability coverage and Section B coverage for medical expenses and death benefits. In addition, different car insurance coverage can also be available through school-based insurance programs.
After an accident, the following parties may be held legally responsible:
- The state
- School districts
- School bus operators
- School bus driver
- Related agents (teachers, volunteer chaperones, etc.)
If a child is injured in an accident after leaving the school bus, auto insurance may continue to provide cover and benefits, depending on whether the serious injury occurred during the "use or operation" of the bus and the circumstances of the incident.
In the unfortunate case of serious injuries sustained by children in or near a school bus, several parties may be liable:
- The negligent driver:
- Careless when supervising the entry and exit of buses
- Who allowed bus overcrowding and children to travel standing?
- Who didn't monitor children's activities during the bus ride?
- Who improperly used the flashing lights
- The parties responsible for inadequate driver training
- The parties responsible for improper driver fitness
- The parties responsible for inappropriate bus maintenance
- The parties responsible for faulty bus design
How Can Miami Accident Attorney Sean M. Cleary Help?
After an accident, the victim may be entitled to compensation to cover medical bills and other expenses.
Our experienced school bus accident attorney provides legal assistance in protecting the rights to recover compensation from liable parties.
If a loved one was injured in a Florida school bus accident, contact us as soon as possible. We will ensure that all necessary steps are taken to secure your legal claim for compensation - for example, the evidence is gathered - and that you recover financial compensation for medical bills and other damages. Contact The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary today to receive the legal representation you deserve.