All around the State of Georgia our kids are heading back to school. Parents entrust their children’s lives and safety to countless school bus drivers, most of whom deserve that trust and are conscientious drivers. Nevertheless, any time a child is injured on or by a school bus, parents have a right and responsibility to find out what when wrong. Sometimes driver inattention and negligence leads to tragic accidents and child injuries.
According to the NHTSA, an average of 19 school-aged children die in school bus related traffic crashes every year. Of these 19, on average 6 of the children die as occupants of a bus and 13 die as pedestrians (getting in or off the bus). More children have been killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time of day. And nearly half of those killed are our youngest school-going children, those between the ages of 5-7 years of age.
Thus while school officials will often tout the high standard of safety on school buses, life changing injuries occur all too often and deserve serious and rigorous investigation.
The dangers of school buses were freshly brought to my mind by a school bus crash that occurred last Spring just a few miles from where I live. According to ABC News, six school buses taking some 200 middle school students to Six Flags crashed in Newton County, Georgia, leaving more than 50 people injured after one school bus rear-ended another, creating a chain reaction.
School Bus drivers are required to undergo extensive training. To give you an idea of just how extensive, you might want to take a look at the School Bus Driver Training Manual used by the Georgia Department of Transportation. This manual contains a goldmine of information regarding how drivers are trained and what responsibilities local school boards owe the families of students whose children take the bus to and from school.
For instance, the manual contains detailed training instructions for how bus drivers and bus monitors should load and unload non-ambulatory wheelchair passengers. Failure to follow the delineated procedures could result in injuries to special needs students. The manual describes the duties involved in safely getting a disabled child secured in their wheel chair including preparing the lift, properly positioning the wheelchair once it is lifted onto the bus, attaching the front and rear securement straps, and attaching the lap/shoulder belts. Failure to follow any of these rules could lead to injuries.
In another section, this one on “Student Behavior Management”, the manual lists certain “interventions” by bus drivers that are prohibited by Georgia law. Corporal punishment (spanking or other intervention designed to cause pain to the student) is prohibited. So is pepper spray/mace. Also, bus drivers are warned not to discipline students while the bus is in motion.
The manual also contains a wealth of information about standards for school bus drivers on the more mundane matters of operating a school bus. Topics covered include: free-way driving, lane changes, safe backing, passing and being passed, rail road crossings, and pre and post trip bus inspections.
Also discussed in the manual is the local school board’s responsibility to do background checks on those applicants who want to be hired as school bus drivers. And after hiring a driver, the school board has a ongoing duty to send them for periodic medical exams and to do performance evaluations. If a school district fails to discharge any of these duties, and a dangerous driver is permitted to transport school children, civil liability can result for negligent hiring/retention.
My firm can represent you in the following types of injury matters:
- School Bus Rear-End Collisions
- School Bus Skidding Off The Road
- School Bus Crash Involving Speeding/Reckless Driving
- Drunk or Drug-Impaired School Bus Driver
- School Bus Driver Who Fails to Stop Bullying (with injury to your child resulting)
- Sexual Abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Failure to Safely Secure Special Needs Child
- Improper/Non-existent/Negligent Hiring & Retention by School Board
For those interested in going a little deeper in their understanding of school bus safety, I recommend the video below. It is produced by The School Bus Safety Company and it discusses various aspects of school bus safety, focusing on the proper training of drivers. It makes the disturbing claim that there are 13,000 school bus fleets without a comprehensive safety training course.
I am available to discuss all School Bus Injuries with you.
Attorney Pete Pearson practices personal injury law in Atlanta, Georgia and has a special interest in helping families of injured children. He is a father to six and lives with his wife and children in Conyers, Georgia. He can be reached directly at Six-Seven-Eight 358-2564.