San Diego school bus accident negligence for children not wearing seatbelts?

California – August 16, 2022

The National Highway Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting Systems (FARS) defines a bus as a motor vehicle designed primarily to transport nine, or more persons, including the driver.  The size of a bus and the passenger capacity increases the catastrophic outcomes when a bus is involved in an accident.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims school buses are the safest vehicles on the road and children are safer taking buses to school rather than traveling by car revealing that the number of children who are fatally injured on school transportation vehicles is less than one percent of nationwide fatalities. Experienced bus accident attorneys can build winning cases to support damage compensation through their knowledge of the laws that regulate school bus travel, including driver screening, bus design including use of seatbelt, and proficiency to ensure passenger safety.

School bus design requirements and seatbelts.

Safety standards for school buses are higher than regular government-controlled transit and private buses. Federal regulations also require other passenger vehicles sharing the roadway with school buses to adhere to certain driving patterns and strict rules to ensure school bus safety. As the most regulated vehicles on the road, school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every state, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists.

  • Design. School buses are designed so that they’re highly visible and include safety features such as flashing red lights, cross-view mirrors, and stop-sign arms. They also include protective seating, high crush standards and rollover protection features.
  • Safety laws. Laws protect students who are getting off and on a school bus by making it illegal for drivers to pass a school bus while dropping off or picking up passengers, regardless of the direction of approach.
  • Seatbelts: Not required on larger buses due to their protective design, but are required on smaller buses and students must buckle up.

Insurance and case building.

If an accident occurs and seatbelts were required because of the smaller size of a school bus, it can be used in the building a negligence platform, but if a large school bus is involved in an accident, riders are not required to wear seatbelts so it would not be part of case building.  School buses are required to carry higher insurance coverages governed by state law requirements outlining the amount of liability coverage required for school bus insurance. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), if a bus carries over 15 passengers, the bus must carry at least $5,000,000 in liability insurance coverage. Buses carrying fewer than 15 passengers must carry at least $1,500,000 in insurance coverage. While these amounts are considered to be the minimum limits, it is rare that buses will carry more than $5,000,000 in insurance.

 Bus accident causes.

  • Poor training of bus drivers,
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,
  • Distracted driving,
  • Limitations to bus driver visibility,
  • Aggressive driving techniques, speeding, or dangerous maneuvering,
  • Sudden acceleration, or braking,
  • Poor bus maintenance,
  • Fault of other vehicle drivers.

Recoverable damage compensation.

An experienced bus accident attorney will work with school bus insurance companies after an accident, to determine fair valuations of property, residual bodily harm, and wrongful death, and make certain the insurance company’s offer represents resultant compensatory and punitive damages to cover all victim’s losses.  A lawyer who is familiar with Federal and California school bus carrier laws can be reached at the Law Offices of Jeffrey E. Estes & Associates, and can be resourceful in the personal injury case against a negligent party.


Jeffrey E. Estes & Associates, a Professional Law Corporation
501 West Broadway, Suite 1650
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-233-8021
Fax: 619-233-3730


  1. Information for School Bus Operators | FMCSA (dot.gov)
  2. https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/school-bus-safety
  3. http://www.yellowbuses.org/
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