Most parents would agree that choosing the type of transport that will ensure your child arrives securely at school is a decision made with great consideration. With many families relying on both parents working, the luxury of being able to drive a child to and from school is simply just that, a luxury in today’s age. So, it’s easy to see why it’s common practice that many parents rely heavily on the school bus system to ensure their child’s journey to and from school.
Most bus routes are often planned so they avoid main highway routes, taking quieter streets through suburban areas to connect children with their local schools. Despite the fact that these roads may be quieter than the norm, at peak times of the day traffic including cars, bikes, trucks and pedestrians can increase. While studies show that riding a school bus is actually much safer than traveling in a car, sadly it is not uncommon for school bus accidents to occur, resulting in serious injury and sometimes death.
When it comes to considering how these accidents can be prevented, the first premise is to simply remember we all must drive with a mentality that our roads are to be shared. The driver of a vehicle should always remain a safe distance from a school bus, allowing plenty of time when the bus indicates it is about to slow down, pull over or turn a corner for the vehicle behind to slow down and give it the extra space it needs. On a narrow road that is not divided, it is crucial not to overtake a bus when it has stopped and children may be disembarking. Many accidents whereby children have stepped into oncoming traffic have occurred this way, due to blind spots of drivers and the child’s lack of experience navigating a road.
School bus drivers must hold a commercial driver’s license, have a clean driving history and not be a consumer of drugs or alcohol. Becoming a school bus driver takes a dedicated path of learning and development and involves not only licensing requirements but passenger and school bus endorsement too. Maintaining excellent physical and emotional health is vital to the safe practices of a school bus driver and is encouraged through learning and school bus testing. A driver needs to be able to remain alert and attentive for long periods to ensure the well-being of his passengers, as he responds to changing traffic conditions.
School children themselves, who benefit from the services of a school bus can also contribute to safe practices and the prevention of accidents. Parents and teachers can encourage children to have respect for each other and the school bus driver, creating an orderly experience by lining up to enter the bus allowing each child space to board and / or disembark. Remaining seated throughout the journey and keeping all body parts and personal belongings inside the bus at all times; sitting in a forward-facing position; keeping the aisle area clear and not causing a distraction to the bus driver are important measures to create a safe journey.
A student should always keep back off the curb as a bus approaches, waiting for it to stop before they board. On exiting the bus, it is a safe practice to walk at least ten feet from the bus before attempting to cross the road and never walk out from behind a bus into oncoming traffic.
Maintenance of the school bus is also vitally important, to ensure there are no hidden surprises that may cause a sudden or unexpected breakdown, with the potential to create an accident. Bus drivers are encouraged to inspect their vehicles on a daily basis, prior to their shift and at the end of the day. A school bus is required to undergo regular maintenance by a qualified mechanic to ensure it is always able to perform safely, particularly considering its precious cargo.
School bus rides can and should be fun and safe experiences for children. Take the time to investigate the laws in your state regarding school buses, have conversations with your child about road safety and encourage your school to implement road safety education programs. If all the measures are taken to employ and train well qualified and safe drivers, sensible behaviors by students and the regular maintenance to vehicles should contribute to safer outcomes for school buses on the roads.
However, accidents with school buses can happen even when everyone follows the rules. If your child has suffered injury in a school bus accident, you may be entitled to compensation. To understand your rights and options, it is important to consult with a legal professional as soon as possible.