In the United States, school bus accidents are somewhat of a rarity, and thankfully we don’t hear about children being injured in devastating crashes too often – especially when you consider that about 22 million kids ride school buses every day in the U.S. Overall, the data shows us that school buses are generally a safe option for transporting children, but the reality is that accidents do happen and children do get hurt as a result.
School Bus Accident Statistics
First, we should begin by explaining that school bus accident statistics can be generally misleading. There are many technicalities involved in the recording process, and these technicalities can potentially impact the reporting process – for example, a school bus transporting children on an out-of-state field trip may not be recorded as a school bus accident.
From 2001 to 2010, 1,368 people were reportedly killed in school transportation-related accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This statistic is partially misleading in the sense that nearly three-fourths (75 percent) of all the deaths were occupants of the other vehicles involved in the crash. If you think about it, it makes sense – school buses are huge vehicles that are capable of causing a lot of damage.
In fact, only seven percent of all fatalities that resulted from school bus accidents were actually occupants in the buses themselves. The remaining percentage of all fatalities – 21 percent – was made up of non-occupants of either vehicle, meaning they were likely pedestrian bystanders or bicyclists.
Types of Injuries from School Bus Accidents
Besides an actually vehicle-to-vehicle school bus accident, there are a number of ways that children can be injured while riding the school bus.
Jennifer McGeehan, a researcher at the Columbus Children’s Hospital in Ohio, conducted a study that found roughly 17,000 children under the age of 19 visit emergency rooms each year for injuries sustained while riding, entering or exiting school buses. That number is more than twice the NHTSA’s estimated total of 8,500.
The study found that more than 42 percent of all child injuries came from school bus accidents – collisions between a school bus and another vehicle. Interestingly enough, 24 percent of the injuries were occurring while children were entering or exiting a school bus.
Despite the obvious safety benefits, many school buses do not have seat belts or other types of safety restraints to hold children in the event of a school bus accident. That puts kids at greater risk of injury, and it also means that fragile, growing kids are lacking some of the most basic vehicle safety equipment there is.
Experts and child safety advocates are unanimous in calling for updated padding, safety belt restraints and additional education in hopes of improving the safety of school buses. Children can become seriously injured in school bus accidents, and the physical and emotional trauma that they face when these collisions happen is life-changing in most cases.