Buses can be convenient and economical for moving large groups of people or taking long trips. However, while the number of accidents involving buses is still relatively small, the likelihood for injuries and deaths is greater than a car. In addition to mass transit buses causing accidents, school buses, charter and other private-use buses also contribute to the rising number of bus accidents.
At issue is the crashworthiness of buses, and how, despite knowledge of the risks, builders and converters who make these do not add seatbelts, provide for laminated glass or otherwise ensure occupants will be kept contained inside in foreseeable rollovers.
School buses are the largest type of mass transit in the United States, providing almost nine million student trips every year. In comparison, this is twice as many passenger trips than are provided by transit buses across the nation.
School buses pose a unique set of dangers to school age children. Statistics vary, but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are 450,000 school buses in service, and more than 25 million students ride school buses daily.
While safety advocates first proposed seat belts on school buses 30 years ago, there is still no consistent law mandating the installation and use of seatbelts. While many still believe belts should be provided in all seating positions inside school buses, studies by the NTSB suggest that in many school bus accidents, the lack of a seat belt is not the cause of the serious injuries or deaths seen. Rather, in looking at the data concerning school bus accidents where death or serious life-altering conditions have occurred, many of the injuries or deaths are a result of the fact that high speed impacts with a cars, large trucks, trains, or collisions with fixed objects were involved. The data also supports the notion that school buses are relatively stable vehicles, but may overturn under certain conditions. It also appears that when buses overturns, ejections are rare as the windows and other possible portals for ejection are relatively small.
While this may hold true for school buses, other charter and private-use buses with different seating configurations, no seatbelts, large windows, and weak structural designs pose a much greater threat to occupants who may be ejected in a bus rollover. Ejections in coach buses with large windows create a greater probability of injury for the unrestrained occupant, who is much more likely to be thrown from the bus in a rollover because the possible portal for ejection is so much greater in size. Further, because of the varying quality of how different charter and private-use buses are made, occupants may also be exposed to greater risks of ejection if the roof and sides of the bus deform, collapse, or separate in a rollover.
The technology and ability to build buses that can withstand foreseeable rollover accidents, as well as various types of window glass alternatives such as laminated glass, exists. These elements can minimize the potential for ejections and the serious injuries and fatalities that often occur when occupants are thrown from buses in accidents.
The simple fact is, when the decision is made by a bus maker not to provide seat belt restraint systems to bus passengers, the manufacturer of such large vehicles must then consider the implications of potential ejection in foreseeable bus accidents, and take steps to ensure that the vehicle is made to contain occupants within the bus.
As Bus Accident attorneys we can help
We focus on complex and technical cases for our clients. The Didier Law Firm has extensive experience in litigating accidents involving a failure to incorporate restraint systems as well as stability theories, roof crush allegations, occupant protection issues, and other related claims. As bus accident lawyers we are here to help you evaluate and pursue claims stemming from bus accidents. If you have questions about a bus accident claim, contact us so that we may help.