Fall and the crisp refreshing autumn air is here. School is back in session and summer is a fading memory. Many towns on the North Shore of Massachusetts transport students by school bus. Safety on the bus, to and from school, is paramount.
The autumn climate makes waiting for the bus in our North Shore towns (Lynn, Lynnfield, Saugus, Wakefield and the like) pleasant. But once the cold arrives; not so much. Reliability of the bus arriving and on time is important. Safely transporting the children to and from school, even more so. According to a September 21, 2015 Boston Globe article “School bus times improve, but still face criticism” too many children riding the bus to school in Boston are tardy arriving to class and the return trip home is not any more reliable as some kids are getting home late, sometimes up to an hour or more after the scheduled drop off time. This is causing concern for parents who may become nervous that their kids have been left at the bus stop; while at the same time dealing with Boston traffic and getting to work on time. Further, with budget concerns, bus routes are longer and the buses more crowded, increasing the risk that our kids could be in an accident and may be seriously hurt. In Massachusetts school buses are not required to have seat belts. Having latch key children is worrisome enough without the added stress of not knowing when they will be picked up or dropped off, or if they may be injured in an accident to or from school.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (the “NHTSA”) a “school-transportation-related crash is a crash that involves, either directly or indirectly, a school bus body vehicle, or a non-school bus functioning as a school bus, transporting children to or from school or school-related activities. NHTSA Data shows that from 2004 to 2013 there were 340,039 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 1,214 were classified as school-transportation-related including both student bus occupants and student pedestrians. More school-age pedestrians were killed from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.
Yellow school buses are built with safety in mind. But today many school buses are converted cars or vans and all can be susceptible to a negligent operator. According to the NHTSA and the American School Bus Council a school bus driver must be trained in loading and offloading, student behavior management, participate in random drug/alcohol testing and be subject to frequent driving record checks. When an accident involving a school bus happens, responsibility or fault can be tricky. Depending on the town, the school bus could be operated by a private company or by the town, or by a contracted parent. Determining responsibility can be a maze, with each party pointing the finger at someone else.
Drive carefully now that school is in session and remember, it is the law that drivers approaching a vehicle displaying a “sign bearing the words “School Bus” and which is equipped with front and rear alternating flashing red signal lamps which are flashing, … and which has been stopped to allow pupils to alight from or board the same, a person operating a motor vehicle or trackless trolley shall, except when approaching from the opposite direction on a divided highway, bring his vehicle or trackless trolley to a full stop before reaching said school bus and shall not thereafter proceed until the warning signals are deactivated, unless directed to the contrary by a police officer duly authorized to control the movement of traffic.” M.G.L. c. 90, §14.
If your child is injured on a school bus or was involved in an accident with a bus, an experienced injury lawyer can help you work though the issues.