In 1999, the TV show “ER” staged a school bus crash in which the bus overturned near the train tracks in downtown Chicago. Students who were able climbed out of the emergency exit while others awaited medical assistance inside. Some train passengers that rode by the scene while it was being filmed were horrified by what they saw, until other passengers informed them it wasn’t real.
Unfortunately, on September 28, 2012, the school bus accident that neighbors and passersby witnessed on Lower River Road in Louisville, Kentucky was not a set for a TV show. It really occurred, and numerous children were injured. It appears that a car with three high school students inside did not stop at the stop sign. Their car hit the bus hard enough that it was knocked over, sending 48 middle school children flying inside the bus. All three students in the car and all of the bus riders were taken to local hospitals, although some of those from the bus were taken more as a precaution than as a result of actual injuries. The only person involved in the bus wreck that did not go to the hospital was the driver of the bus.
This scenario begs the question: Why aren’t school buses equipped with seat belts? The fact that the three people in the car had to go to the hospital makes sense because of the vast difference in size between the bus and the car. But because the bus driver who had a seat belt was the only one who wasn’t taken to the hospital, it makes one wonder if fewer bus riders would have been injured if they had been wearing seat belts. Some states do require seat belts on certain buses, but it is not a requirement in Indiana or Kentucky.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) addresses this question on its website. It states that about 42,000 people are killed in car accidents in the U.S. each year, but approximately six children are killed when riding in school buses. The sheer size of a full-size school bus allegedly keeps the children safer than a regular car. In addition, the seats are placed close together and have high, cushioned backs to protect children in the event of a crash.
The NHTSA notes that the use of seat belts may actually hinder the ability to rescue children after an accident because it would be difficult to get the seat belts unfastened. And there is the issue of the seat belts actually being used by students. Holding a bus driver responsible for making sure 50 or so children put their seat belts on and leave them on is not feasible, and expecting kids to always put them on themselves is not realistic. Requiring seat belts to be worn in buses might also put bus drivers in jeopardy of being sued if an accident occurred and some of the kids were not belted in.
This subject is likely to be debated as long as children continue riding buses to school. The fact remains that accidents do occur, and people do get injured. If your child is injured in a school bus crash, an experienced Kentucky car accident attorney can give you advice on how to handle any claims that need to be filed.
Crash hurts 51; The Courier-Journal; Joseph Lord; September 29, 2012
Last student released from hospital following JCPS bus accident; WHAS11; October 1, 2012