Georgia school buses carry our most precious cargo. And keeping that cargo safe is our number one priority. As parents, we put our complete trust in the bus driver transporting our children.
Georgia School Bus Crash Statistics
It’s alarming to see the number of school bus crashes that have occurred throughout the Middle Georgia area. The most recent accident occurred in Warner Robins last month when a school bus overturned killing a 6-year old little girl and injuring five other students. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (‘NHTSA’), about 134 people die in school-vehicle-related crashes each year in the U.S., with 8% of those being occupants in the bus. Pedestrians, bicyclists and others outside the bus account for 21% of the fatalities. Since 2004, 106 people, both children and adults, have been killed while riding in or driving a school bus.
School Bus Safety and Design
Overall, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for children travelling between home and school: They’re highly visible; have noticeable flashing lights; utilize cross-view mirrors; have stop-sign arms; are equipped with protective seating; and are designed with rollover protection features. In addition, every state has laws that require motorists to stop for buses as an added layer of protection to keep our children safe while getting on and off the bus.
A much-debated safety topic is the use of seatbelts on buses. The National Safety Council (‘NSC’) supports the use of lap and shoulder belts in school buses. In fact, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas require them. However, most states have chosen not to require the use of seatbelts on school buses. It is sometimes argued that the exterior (size & weight) and interior (seat cushioning, size, and layout) of the buses are designed to be safer in the event of a crash and the cost of adding the seatbelts outweighs the impact their addition would have on safety.
Recovery for Injured Victims
Recovery for injuries suffered in a school bus crash may not be as easy as in other cases. One reason for this is the immunity that governmental entities have, and in particular that school districts have. While it can get fairly complicated, generally Georgia law provides that school districts are not immune up to the amount of liability insurance they purchase. See Tift County School Dist. V. Martinez, 331 Ga. App. 423 (2015).
If there is insurance in place to overcome the school district’s immunity, then children injured in a school bus crash are subject to the same type of compensation as adults injured in an auto accident, up to the amount of insurance purchased by the district. They can receive payment for past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability and emotional distress. If the child dies, the parents or guardian may be able to receive payment for the loss of future income of the child.
When a child is injured parents should focus on helping their child get better. They shouldn’t have the added stress of dealing with insurance companies. Because children are minors, injury claims can become complicated. Gautreaux Law has years of experience dealing with insurance companies and handling the various rules that accompany injury claims for minors and school district immunity.
As with any injury, Georgia law limits the amount of time you have to file a claim. Call our firm at 478-238-9758 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
School Bus Safety Tips
- Stay away from the bus until it has completely stopped and the driver says it’s okay for you to enter.
- Keep a safe distance from the bus so the driver can see you
- Avoid roughhousing while waiting for the bus.
- When being dropped off, exit the bus and walk 10 giant steps away from the bus.
- Stay seated while riding on the bus.
- Keep the aisle clear of people, books and bookbags.
- Be aware of traffic and watch for passing cars.