Distracted Driving and School Buses
School bus accidents are rare, according to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA also states that riding a school bus is the safest method for children to get to school, including having a parent drive them. When a school bus accident does occur, the injuries, property damage, and deaths can be extensive. It is a tragic scene that still happens more often than it should.
School Bus Driver Distraction is a Leading Cause of Crashes
Before a school district hires a bus driver, it must ensure that he or she has completed extensive training on the safe handling of a bus. After all, the driver is responsible for the safety of dozens of young lives. The school district may be liable for injuries to students if it practiced negligent hiring. However, it is more common for bus drivers themselves to cause crashes due to diverting their attention to one or more distractions. These may include:
• Student behavior problems: Students who do not sit in their seat, fight with other students, or try to get the driver’s attention while he or she is driving are all possible causes of distraction. It is essential that parents, bus drivers, and school staff make behavior expectations known from the first day of school. Students who continue to cause a disruption should lose the privilege of riding the bus until they can get their behavior under control. Those with known disabilities or behavioral issues should have a school bus aide assigned to them to ensure the safety of the driver and other passengers.
• Eating or drinking while driving: Sometimes, school bus drivers attempt to eat or drink something while operating a large steering wheel. This is never a good idea because trying to balance the food or a beverage container could cause one or both hands to slip off the wheel. It only takes a few seconds of the driver’s hands being off the steering wheel for a tragic accident to happen.
• Using electronic devices while driving: Although it is illegal for school bus drivers to use a smartphone for speaking or texting except in case of emergency when the bus is stopped, some still do it anyway. Operating a GPS device and adjusting radio dials or temperature controls are also common electronic distractions that can be hazardous while driving.
Private Vehicle Driver Actions that Contribute to School Bus Accidents
People driving a car, truck, or motorcycle, as well as other commercial vehicle drivers, are sometimes guilty of negligence that causes a crash with a school bus. Their actions can also cause pedestrian accidents with students getting on or off the bus. For example, drivers must come to a complete stop when a school bus has its stop arm extended. This includes vehicles on the opposite side of the road unless a median is present that divides the traffic.
People driving their own vehicle can also become distracted just as school bus drivers can. In addition to the types of school bus driver distractions listed above, drivers of private vehicles might turn to look at passengers, apply make-up while driving, or look at things on the side of the road instead of keeping their eyes directed in front of them.
Other possible causes of driver actions that can lead to a school bus crash include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or unsafe driving acts such as speeding, tailgating, failing to signal lane changes, and failing to stop at stop signs and traffic lights. These types of actions have caused numerous school bus accidents over the years, some resulting in severe injuries and fatalities.
Has a School Bus Accident Affected Your Life?
Perhaps your child sustained major injuries in a school bus accident and you are struggling to keep up with medical expenses because you had to quit your job to care for them. Another possibility is that you have been charged for DUI while operating a school bus. The personal injury or criminal defense attorneys at Smith & McGhee, Attorneys at Law, can assist you in either situation. Our attorneys have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of these areas of the law, and we can thoroughly assess your case and advise you on your legal options. Please call us at 334-708-3158 or send us a private and confidential message through our online contact form to request a personalized consultation.