When children are victims of a car accident, it is tragic. When a school bus crash causes multiple child deaths, the entire community is touched by the tragedy. Despite the high-profile incidents of ongoing school-bus crashes, including one in 2016 in Tennessee, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that school buses are still the safest form of transportation for children headed to and from school. In fact, the agency puts a number to the safety factor, saying that a safe arrival at school is 70 times more likely by bus than by individual cars.
The agency attributes this safety factor to the general design of a school bus, plus the support of stop-arm laws in every state in the nation. School buses are very visible, due both to their height and the color they are painted—yellow, which in traffic signs and signals is the color for caution. They also have flashing red lights to attract attention, stop-sign arms to halt motorists and cross-view mirrors that give the drivers a better view of the road and the traffic on it. State laws support the use of the stop-arms, making it illegal for drivers to pass when it is used. Drivers use the stop-arm when children are getting on and off.
In addition to the exterior safety features, the interiors of larger school buses are designed using “compartmentalization.” This concept shifts the focus from seat belts to the seat compartment itself. Strongly framed seats are placed closely together and provide energy-absorbing seat backs to help prevent injuries. Smaller school buses, those weighing less than 10,000 pounds, more closely resemble passenger cars, so they require seatbelts.
Despite the laws and safety designs, school-bus accidents continue to occur. Fox News reports that Tennessee jurors earlier this year convicted a driver of negligent homicide in the death of six children in a 2016 accident. The driver was using a cell phone and going too fast to negotiate a curve. He ran the bus off the road, where it hit a pole and was flipped into a tree.
This article contains information that is general in nature and is not meant to be taken as legal advice.