Recently, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that mandated all new school buses have both shoulder and lap seat belts. This bill was signed in wake of several school bus crashes and the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) recommendation on the topic. Other states may soon be passing new laws as school bus cameras are also in the works.
School Bus Crashes
Last May, a fatal crash occurred in Mount Olive, New Jersey when the bus driver allegedly crossed over three traffic lanes, causing the fatalities of a teacher and a child. The bus smashed into a dump truck, and the driver was charged with reckless driving. Over 40 other passengers were also injured.
Last March, a Chattanooga, Tennessee bus driver was found guilty for criminal negligent homicide relating to a 2016 crash where six young children were fatally injured. There was another fatal crash that year in Baltimore. Most recently, a bus driver in Norfolk, Virginia sideswiped a car while changing lanes in September. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Are They Safe?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American School Bus Council both report that students riding in school buses are safer than those walking to school or riding in minivans. They state that on average, around 2,000 children lose their lives annually in motor vehicle crashes, while six are fatally injured every year in school bus accidents. Another NHTSA study on school transportation-related crashes that took place from 2007 to 2016 showed 1,282 fatalities, with 281 of them being school-age children.
The effectiveness of seat belts on school buses has been debated. It has been pointed out that evacuating a bus when students are belted in could make it longer for them to get off the bus. It was also purported that the larger size of school buses made them safer. However, the NHTSA felt that seat belts were needed on small school buses.
Last May, the NTSB recommended that every new school bus have lap and shoulder belts, and that the 42 states that do not require them make the change. It also recommended that four other states upgrade their requirements from lap-only belts to lap and shoulder belts. It was also proposed that automatic emergency braking and collision avoidance systems be installed on all new school buses.
The NTSB also reported that certain bus drivers were not medically fit to be driving school buses, and that most of the fatal crashes could have been prevented. It also specified that the Tennessee crash was caused by the driver’s cellphone use and excessive speeding. A crackdown on unsafe bus drivers was called for.
Cherry Hill Car Accident Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Advocate for Victims of School Bus Accidents
Governor Murphy has acted by signing the mandatory school bus seat belt bill, but unsafe drivers still populate our roads. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you need professional representation. Contact the experienced Cherry Hill car accident lawyers at DiTomaso Law. We have representatives ready to discuss your case. Call us at 856-414-0010 or complete an online form today. With offices in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients from the surrounding areas.