We already knew that Houston school zones can be hazardous, but the danger to kids traveling to and from school doesn’t end there. Recent events around the country have turned the spotlight on school bus stop safety. School children in at least four states were killed by motor vehicles while approaching or waiting at school bus stops during the week of October 29.
With about 35,000 school buses transporting approximately 1.5 million students in Texas each school day, there is plenty of opportunity for accidents. However, this season’s rate of student fatalities has been unusually high. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 102 school-age pedestrians were killed in school transportation-related incidents in the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015—an average of just over 10 per year.
Still, the NHTSA says that kids are much safer once they’re on the bus than they are when boarding and disembarking.
Fatal School Bus Stop Accidents and Injuries
Some recent high profile bus stop accidents include:
- A 7-year-old boy was found dead at a bus stop in Pennsylvania. The school bus driver discovered the boy’s body and called 911—the driver who killed him had left the scene,
- 6-year-old twins and their 9-year-old sister were killed and an 11-year-old injured when a Rochester, Indiana driver apparently disregarded a stop sign and hit them as they were boarding the school bus,
- A 9-year-old boy in Mississippi was struck and killed as he crossed a highway to board a school bus, and;
- Five children were injured, two seriously, when they were struck by a fast-moving car while waiting at a school bus stop in Tampa, Florida.
The Indiana incident and the Mississippi incident and perhaps the Pennsylvania death as well, occurred while children were crossing to the school bus stop. In the wake of the fatalities, the Indiana bus stop was relocated. But, many bus stops in Texas and around the country remain dangerous.
Texas School Bus Safety
In Texas, drivers on both sides of the road, in all lanes, are required to stop for a school bus that is loading or unloading passengers. Passing a stopped school bus with its lights flashing or stop sign extended can result in a fine of $500 or more. The only exception is when the roadway is divided by a concrete median or another barrier.
While drivers bear responsibility for obeying this law and for taking any necessary precautions, such as reducing speed around school bus stops and ensuring that their full attention is on the road, everyone involved must do their part. For example:
- School and/or local government officials must assess the safety of school bus stops and adjust as necessary.
- School bus drivers must exercise great care, not just in their own operation of the vehicle but in ensuring that the road is clear before releasing students from the bus and offering any appropriate cautions.
- Parents must ensure that their children are aware of the risks and of the steps they can take to minimize the danger, such as looking both ways, listening, and never running into the street to catch the bus.
- Students must take responsibility for safely crossing, remaining a safe distance from the street while waiting for the bus, and otherwise exercising care—if a student isn’t old enough to take these steps, a parent or responsible older child should wait with him.
Liability for Bus Stop Accidents
When a child is injured or killed by a motor vehicle at a school bus stop, or while crossing the street to board or leave a school bus, the family may be entitled to compensation. While the driver who struck the child is the most obvious potentially liable party, others may share responsibility for bus stop accidents. Depending on the circumstances, the school, bus company, or even the governmental entity responsible for the road may be partially liable. If you have lost a loved one to a school bus-related accident or have an injured child, talk to an experienced attorney about your rights and options.