Thousands of children injured yearly in school bus accidents -


Thousands of children injured yearly in school bus accidents

More than 23 million children ride buses to their elementary and secondary schools each year in the United States.

The school bus transportation system is one of the largest and safest public transit systems in the country according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Nevertheless, about 17,000 children end up in emergency rooms each year due to school bus-related injuries.

Whether the accident is big or small, any school bus-related accident quickly turns chaotic for families and communities when you consider the precious cargo each bus carries.

"It is so sad because this is a baby we're talking about," Auneisha Williams said referring to an injured child involved in a school bus accident.

About 20 percent of school bus-related deaths involve pedestrians, students, adults, and bicyclists. These fatalities either involve the bus itself, or a motorist who made an illegal move.

Devery Peterson is a safety and training specialist with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), the largest public school transportation operation in North Carolina.

"Any bus driver would tell you that it's just very frightening to be sitting in that seat and not able to stop a car that's not going to stop," Peterson said.

CMS students learn about bus safety as early as kindergarten with a team of trainers and a lesson from "Gus the Bus."

Children are usually struck by a vehicle in what's known as the "Danger Zone" which is the 10-foot area around all sides of the bus.

If a child is standing or walking in this area, the driver can't see the child.

When a child is exiting a bus, they should use the handrail and touch each step with their feet.

Peterson said it is important for parents to remind their children to take 10 giant steps away from the bus, and to then walk to wherever they need to go.

Gus the Bus reminds students to never cross behind the bus.

Children who are crossing a street to board a bus should take extra caution.

They should also remain still until the lights turn from yellow to red. Then, they should turn their heard left, right and left again, looking for any vehicles that may not be stopping.

A second look to the left is critical because that's the direction where vehicles are always closest to the child.

All drivers should know that yellow lights means the bus is slowing down and is about to come to a stop.

Generally, state laws requires drivers to stop on both sides of the road unless there is a median dividing the opposite lanes of traffic. 

Ultimately, the biggest penalty for drivers isn't a hefty ticket, but rather the heart-breaking consequences of hurting a child.

Most large school buses don't have seatbelts because of a bus design called "compartmentalization." Higher, wider and thicker seats create smaller compartments that absorb the force of a crash better than a poorly-fit or unused seat belt.

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Additional Information:

The following information is from the University of Rochester Medical Center (Source:

  • More than 40% of school bus injuries are caused by vehicular accidents, according to a 2006 report by the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice (CIPP). Bus design keeps many of those injuries minor.
  • About 24% of injuries involve getting on or off the bus, according to the CIPP report.
  • According to School Transportation News, an average of seven school-age passengers are killed in bus crashes every year but 19 are killed getting on and off the bus. Most are 5-7 years old.
  • More school-age pedestrians are killed in the afternoon than in the morning.
  • 38% of fatalities occur between 3 and 4pm.
  • The mechanical arm forces a child to stay a certain distance.
  • Parents can help: keep an eye on children waiting or departing for the bus, teach them bus safety rules about the "danger zone," like taking five giant steps away from the bus before crossing so they can be seen by the driver.
  • Bus seats are constructed in a way that seat belts are not needed, according to experts. This is called "compartmentalization."
  • Each seat "compartment" absorbs the force of the crash with higher, wider and thicker seats. The seat structure can bend forward, should a child be thrown into it. Seats are positioned no more than two feet apart, which limits the distance a child moves.
  • There is still a risk of injury should the child be throw side to side or if the bus rolls over.
  • Enforcement of seat belts on a crowded bus can be difficult and require adjustment to each child, individually. There is a lot of maintenance on keeping them in good use and clean. Additionally, children under 8 years old need a chest harness instead of a lap belt.
  • Smaller buses (under 10,000 pounds) are required by federal law to have three-point seat belts since they are more similar to automobiles or light trucks. Not all states, however, mandate their use.
  • The NHTSA offers these tips for children who ride a school bus:
    • Try to get to your bus stop at least 5 minutes before your bus is supposed to arrive.
    • When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps-6 feet-away from the curb. Line up away from the street.
    • Line up facing the school bus door-not along the side of the school bus.
    • Don't play in the street while waiting for the school bus.
    • Don't approach the bus until the bus has stopped, the door has opened, and the driver says you can get on the bus.
    • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, always walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the street until you are at least five giant steps- 10 feet-ahead of the bus. Then you can cross.
    • Before you cross, make sure the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver. Wait for a signal from the bus driver before you cross the street.
    • When you climb the steps onto the bus, hold onto the handrails.
    • When you get off the bus, make sure that your clothing or book bags don't get caught on the handrails or the doors.
    • Never walk or cross the street behind the bus.
    • If you need to walk beside a bus, always stay three giant steps-6 feet-away from the side of the bus.
    • If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick up what you've dropped. The bus driver might not be able to see you.
  • Here are safety tips from the NHTSA for drivers who travel through areas that have school children present:
    • When you back out of your driveway or leave your garage, be on the alert for children who are walking or bicycling to school.
    • When you drive through an area marked with school zones, watch out for children who are walking or bicycling to school. They may be thinking more about school than traveling there safely.
    • Whenever children may be in the area, slow down. Be on the alert for children walking in the street, particularly in neighborhoods that have no sidewalks.
    • Watch for children who may be waiting or playing near a bus stop.
    • Watch for children who may be hurrying to catch a bus, and who may dart out into the street without checking for traffic.
    • Pay attention to the flashing lights on the bus, and stop when the lights are red and the STOP arm is extended.
  • The National School Transportation Association offers these tips for parents whose children ride the bus:
    • Have at least one adult present at the bus stop to supervise the children.
    • Let your children know that you won't be upset if they don't run back to the bus to pick up a jacket they left on a seat or grab school work that they accidentally dropped near the bus.
    • Encourage your children to sit quietly on the bus and listen to any instructions given by the driver.

The following information is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Source:

  • School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury.
  • School buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school.

The following information is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in an article about "Seat Belts on School Buses" (Source: [

  • According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): More than 42,000 people are killed in traffic crashes on U.S. roads every year. Every year, approximately 450,000 public school buses travel about 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities. Yet, on average, every year, six school age children (throughout the U.S.) die in school bus crashes as passengers.
  • Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than do passenger cars and light trucks. NHTSA decided that the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called "compartmentalization." This requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection such that children are protected without the need to buckle-up. Through compartmentalization, occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.
  • School buses are approximately seven times safer than passenger cars or light trucks. The school bus occupant fatality rate of 0.2 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is considerably lower than the fatality rates for passenger cars or light trucks (1.44 per 100 million VMT).
  • Pedestrian fatalities account for the highest number of school bus-related fatalities. There are about 17 such fatalities per year, two-thirds of which involve the school bus itself and the rest involving motorists illegally passing the stopped school bus.

The following information is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Source:

  • Since 2000 there have been 371,104 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 1,245 (or 0.34%) were classified as school transportation-related.
  • An average of 139 fatalities occur per year in school transportation-related crashes.
  • Bus occupants accounted for 8% of fatalities where non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc) accounted for 20%.
  • Since 2000, 130 school-age pedestrians (younger than 19) have died in school transportation-related crashes.
  • 43% of school-age pedestrians killed in school transportation-related crashes were between the ages of 5 and 7.
  • On average, 10 school-age pedestrians are killed by school transportation vehicles each year and 4 are killed by other vehicles involved in school-bus-related crashes.
  • More school-age pedestrians are killed between 3pm and 4pm than any other time of day.
  • From 2000 to 2009, 73% of the school-age pedestrians fatally injured in crashes were struck by a school bus or a vehicle functioning as a school bus. 27% were struck by another vehicle.
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