The first day of school is right around the corner and parents, students, and educators all across the Commonwealth are preparing for a successful year. With the start of school comes the return of thousands of school buses on the road. Boston Public Schools alone transports 33,000 students a day on school buses.
School Bus Seatbelt Laws Proposed to Massachusetts Legislature
Some parents may be concerned about the safety of their children on school buses. While there are laws requiring booster seats and seat belts in passenger vehicles, no such state law exists for school buses. In December 2013, the Massachusetts Legislature was presented with a proposal that would require seat belts on school buses with a gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds. (School buses with a gross vehicle weight of less than 10,000 pounds are considered more similar to passenger cars and trucks and are already required to have safety belts.) The supporters of this proposal are hoping that a recent rule passed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) requiring lap-and-shoulder restraints on motor coaches will help carry their efforts forward. A small number of Massachusetts school districts already require seat belts in their school buses, including Newton, Waltham, and Wellesley. However, in Wellesley wearing of school bus seat belts is neither mandatory nor enforced, simply encouraged.
School Buses are Designed to be Safer than Passenger Vehicles
The NHTSA highlights seven major reasons as to why school buses are the safest way for students to get to and from school, including the requirements for flashing red lights, reinforced sides, and trained drivers. There is also a concept called “compartmentalization” on school buses, which involves the height of school bus seats and how closely they are placed to one another.
Nevertheless, the NHTSA reports that an average of 19 students per year are killed in school-bus related accidents, but rather than being as a result of being a passenger on the bus, more often than not they occur when the child is a pedestrian. The NHTSA states that between 2003 and 2012 there were a total of 119 pedestrians under the age of 18 killed in school-transportation related accidents, but that the rate of death of school-bus occupants is only .2 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
While school buses are generally regarded as safe, they are not immune from accidents that result in injuries. In November 2013, a school bus driver and two teenage passengers were taken to the hospital after the bus hit a guardrail on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Another accident in Tennessee in April 2014 resulted in two students being injured, one of whom was pinned under a seat, after their school bus went airborne.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Student victims and their families may deserve to receive damages, including costs of medical treatment and pain and suffering. Ongoing medical treatment, communicating with insurance companies, and process of determining liability can be frustrating and emotional, especially when the injured party is a child. You may have lost earning in caring for your child. If your child is in a school-transportation related accident, whether as a passenger or a pedestrian, contact Boston Attorney Neil Burns. He has been passionately and aggressively representing injuries to children since 1985 and will help guide you through the process. There is always a free consultation and no cost to you until your case is successful!