Yellow Is the Scariest Color: Are Your Children Safe on the School Bus?
Steven M. Lee
When you allow your child to board a school bus, you place your trust in the driver and vehicle that he will travel safely to and from school.
School bus drivers are trained to control the vehicle and drive carefully, and buses are specifically designed to decrease collision injuries by elevating the carriage. However, despite these safeties, school bus tragedies do still occur, and more often than you may realize.
Risk and Seat Belt Law
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 133 school-bus–related fatalities occur each year. In addition to fatalities, thousands of injuries are also reported to occur due to these types of collisions. To decrease the risks, many states—including Texas—have developed school bus seat belt laws.
In 2007, Texas passed a law stating that after September 1, 2010, all new school buses should be equipped with three-point seat belts. However, although the law passed, enforcement depended on each school district gathering funds to pay for the belts. After two years, lawmakers were able to procure $10 million dollars to the Texas Education Agency’s budget in 2009 for the purpose of upgrading school buses.
Unfortunately, the majority of those safety belt funds went toward other uses. As a result, the majority of Texas school buses remain without proper restraints, despite the existing state law and despite the federal government’s urging for nationwide seat belt mandates.
Bus Accident Causes and Liability
School bus injuries can occur as a result of a variety of factors, including driver fatigue, boarding accidents, negligent driving, and poor maintenance. Depending on the cause and circumstances of the collisions and resulting injuries, the following parties may held responsible:
- The bus driver. Was the driver operating the bus erratically? Was he disobeying traffic laws? Was he driving under the influence or was he otherwise distracted? If so, he may be to blame for the accident.
- A second-party driver. Was the collision a direct result of another vehicle? Did the other driver’s actions directly result in the school bus or bus driver losing control? If so, the non-bus driver may be held accountable for the accident and resulting injuries.
- The bus company. Was poor maintenance the cause of the collision? Was the driver improperly trained? If so, the bus company or employer may be held responsible for placing your child at risk. School districts which operate their own bus programs may be held accountable under the law. If a school district has privatized its bus services, the private company may be liable, or the school district may still be held accountable if it did not verify skills and credentials of the private company driving staff.
- The bus manufacturer. Was the collision the fault of the bus’ design? Did the driver lose control because the brakes or another part of the bus failed to work properly? If so, the manufacturer’s negligence could be to blame.
Note that, in some cases, more than one party may be at fault.
When your child has been harmed because someone did not act with reasonable care to ensure school bus safety, your child and your family may be able to seek compensation through a personal injury claim.
Proving Liability and Securing Fair Compensation
The majority of school bus accidents will produce evidence that will show how and why a collision occurred, as well as if negligence existed. That’s why it’s vital you gather all information from the accident scene, as well as secure maintenance and medical records, eyewitness statements, and police reports. An experienced attorney can use this documentation to review your case and determine if you have a worthy claim to pursue. Even better, a skilled lawyer can do much of the investigation on your behalf—he knows what evidence to look for and how to find out facts that other people would prefer remain hidden.
If you or someone you love has suffered serious injury because of someone else’s negligence, attorney Steve Lee is ready to fight for your rights. Contact us today at 713-921-4171 to schedule your FREE consultation.
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