According to the American School Bus Council (ASBC), school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding dangerous motor vehicle accidents and preventing injuries to passengers from collisions ("Simply put, the Yellow School Bus is the safest way to get to school.").
However human error and other factors can often cause an accident regardless of the vehicle’s safety features.
The ASBC says the bus is 50 times safer than riding to school with a car driven by teenagers. Interestingly enough, students are also statistically much safer on a bus than riding with their parents – the ASBC says students are 20 times more likely to arrive at school unharmed if they take a school bus than if they are driven by a parent or guardian.
School Bus Design Reduces Risk of Injury
The raw size and power of school buses naturally make them less prone to serious injuries and fatalities in the event of an accident. The vehicle’s frame and safety enhancements protect students and other passengers from being seriously injured from a collision, even in the absence of seat belts and other safety restraints.
School buses are equipped with several safety features that increase visibility to other drivers and reduce the overall chances of a traffic accident. From flashing lights to cross-view mirrors, and even a reinforced frame and mechanical stop signs contribute to making a school bus a safe mode of transportation.
School bus drivers are vetted and trained extensively to provide students and other passengers with a safe environment. Drivers participate in pre-employment and random drug and alcohol screenings to ensure they are capable of driving responsibly and can respond to emergency situations if they arise.
Injuries and Fatalities from School Bus Accidents
The graphic below illustrates the reality of safety when it comes to school buses. But the fact of the matter is that while a child’s risk of being injured or killed on a school bus is very low, there are still a significant number of these types of accidents every year in the United States.
According to the NHTSA, there were a total of 1,236 fatalities traffic accidents involving school buses between 2001 and 2010 in the United States – an average of almost 124 fatal accidents each year. And while the NHTSA says that those deadly crashes only accounted for less than half of a percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents during that period, the fact that there are hundreds of fatalities from school bus-related accidents each year is troubling.
However, it is important to note that approximately 72 percent of all traffic fatalities from school bus-related accidents were the occupants of another vehicle involved in the crash, rather than being an occupant of the school bus itself. Still, the NHTSA estimates that 18 school-aged occupants of school transportation vehicles and pedestrians die in these types of crashes every year.
Because school buses are often operated through government agencies and local school districts, liability involving school bus accident cases can be quite complicated. Accident victims and their loved ones would likely benefit from consulting with an experienced school bus accident lawyer to determine if a claim should be pursued.
For more information and statistics related to school bus accidents, visit the NHTSA’s specialized school bus website here.