School Bus Accident Quick Facts And Common Denominators

Each day, 23 million students ride a school bus to and from school.

School Bus Accident Quick Facts:

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are the safest motor vehicles on our highways. Unfortunately, however, school buses are not 100 percent safe. In fact, school buses pose a variety of unique dangers to school age children. Statistics vary, but the following is a general indication of the potential that responders face in the United States.
  • There are 450,000 school buses in service.
  • More than 25 million students ride school buses daily.
  • School buses travel 2 million miles every school day.
  • There are 16,000 school bus collisions annually.
  • There are 12,000 injuries and 130 deaths involving school buses annually.

These figures are only those reported, as required, by public and private school bus transportation providers. Not included in the statistics are the tens of thousands of school buses that have been converted by church groups, civic groups, recreational providers, canoe and rafting outfitters, private individuals, and the multitudes of other users. A school bus accident can be caused by many different factors and can result in death and serious life-altering conditions.

School bus accidents often have these common denominators:

  • When passengers are killed or seriously injured, the accident will often involve a high speed impact with a large truck, train, or collision with a fixed object such as a bridge abutment.
  • School buses are relatively stable vehicles, but may overturn under certain conditions. When overturns occur, ejections are rare, as windows and other portals are relatively small. Ejections in coach buses with large windows may be more common.
  • NTSB studies have concluded that serious injury and death to school bus passengers is primarily a function of seating position, and not restraint usage. Those seated nearest the impact area are at greatest risk, and the use of a lap belt restraint does not generally increase the likelihood of survival.
  • Lap belts are required in the manufacture of small school buses of less than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight. They are not required in larger school buses or inter-city coach buses. However, crash test data and accident experience indicate that in frontal crashes involving changes in velocity of about 20 mph or more, lap belts often induce serious to fatal head, neck, spine, and abdominal injuries to restrained passengers, while unrestrained passengers in the same seating area receive only minor injury.
  • When bus driver error is found to be a primary contributing factor in an accident, issues of driver selection and training, distraction by unruly passengers, and fatigue from multiple jobs and inadequate rest periods must be considered. As with most large commercial vehicles, bus drivers must employ defensive driving techniques in order to ensure that structural components of the vehicle along the driver’s line of sight do not obscure oncoming traffic.


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