How Common Are School Bus Accidents?

Anyone who drives on American roads is certainly accustomed to the sight of the ubiquitous yellow school bus picking up and dropping off kids. While we might occasionally grumble about our bad luck in being stuck behind one, we simultaneously appreciate the importance of keeping our children as safe as possible while being transported to and from school.

Unfortunately, no transportation system is foolproof. No matter what steps are taken to ensure safety, accidents happen. In fact, on occasion we see news stories about serious school bus crashes and resulting personal injuries.

But how common are these school bus accidents? Is it something a parent really needs to worry about? And are the riders on the bus the only people that suffer personal injuries and death? We’ll address those questions in this article.

School Buses Are Generally Very Safe

The great news is that school-related transportation boasts a great track record. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 320,874 fatal motor vehicle accidents occurred from 2007 to 2016. That includes all types of vehicles. Only 1,147 of those crashes were related to school transportation. (While most school transportation involves America’s iconic buses, the statistics include any vehicle being used for school-related transportation).

During the same time period, 1,282 people died in crashes related to school transportation. That averages out to 128 fatalities per year. Only 9 percent of those who died were actual occupants of the school transportation vehicle. Twenty percent of the people killed were not even in a vehicle – such as pedestrians and bicyclists, who were struck by a school-related vehicle. School-aged children represented only 281 of the deaths. They died in the following ways:

  • 116 were riding in non-school transportation vehicles
  • 98 were pedestrians
  • 58 were school transportation vehicle occupants
  • 8 were pedal cyclists
  • 1 was a “nonoccupant” who was not further classified

Certainly, the death of any school-aged child is tragic. But ultimately, the NHTSA concludes that “the school bus is the safest vehicle on the road.” The statistics demonstrate that it is safer for a child to be transported to school in a bus than in a car.

Crashes Still Occur

While it is comforting to know that we are taking safety precautions on behalf of children, crashes still occur – and examples are plentiful right here in Oregon. For example, in March 2019, 10 people, including 9 children, were hospitalized after a school bus crashed in Clackamas County. An early report suggested that another driver ran a red light. The prior year, in October 2018, a school bus had a head-on collision with a vehicle in Waldport. These are just examples of a number of crashes which have occurred across the state.

Who Is Responsible for Injuries Arising from School Bus Accidents?

Fortunately, the state of Oregon has done a great job in promoting and maximizing our children’s school transportation safety. In fact, it has been many years since a fatality occurred to a school bus occupant. However, people do suffer injuries which can be life-changing. Moreover, it’s not just the occupants of school buses who are injured. As discussed above, pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers and occupants of other vehicles can be badly injured.

When these injuries occur as a result of another driver’s negligence, the law provides a mechanism for recovery of the resulting damages. In fact, our legal system relies on this form of accountability to help make the roads safer for everyone.

Call with Questions

The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will be happy to answer any questions you might have about your rights or how to proceed after a school bus accident. You may be concerned about a statute of limitations, how insurance coverage works, or whether governmental immunity applies. You may simply wonder how an accident should be investigated. We are familiar with these topics and many others and will be happy to help make sure that you are heading in the right direction with your case. Please call us today.


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