The Dangers of Public Transportation & Bus Accidents
No type of vehicle accident is free of consequences—whether only a few scratches are incurred or catastrophic injuries result. This is particularly true of bus accidents. Bus accidents are likely to result in injuries to the parties involved, and there are almost always many parties involved.
Bus passengers may sustain injuries due to:
- Lack of safety restraints
- Inadequately trained drivers
- Improperly maintained busses
- Negligent bus drivers
- Bus drivers under the influence
- Defective bus parts
Bus mechanics can also contribute to accidents. Because these vehicles are so large, their brakes are under tremendous pressure and must be frequently examined and well-maintained. Unfortunately, many maintenance problems are ignored by bus operators so that the vehicles can continue their operations and not undercut company profits. Notably, when proper maintenance is neglected, additional stressors such as overloaded or crowded buses can cause or contribute to bus accidents and related injuries.
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Why Injuries from Texas Bus Accidents Are Far Too Common
Per the U.S. Department of Transportation, bus accidents cause between 11,000 and 15,000 injuries per year. These injuries range in severity, although it is reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that there are around 300 fatalities every year caused by bus accidents. These numbers are far too high, especially when you consider how many communities rely on methods of public transportation. Buses are not only used for the transportation of the community at large but students too. Nearly 25 million children ride a school bus in the U.S. Nationwide, there are around 20 deaths per year caused by school bus accidents.
Factors in Serious Bus Accident Injuries
Despite the number of accidents, buses are not required to make any changes to their equipment to create a safer environment. It is not unheard of to travel on a bus that offers no seat belts. When there are “click it or ticket” laws all over the country, it doesn’t make sense to deny passengers the chance to buckle up on a bus.
Bus safety advocates have another concern: Not only do the majority of buses today not offer seat belts to their passengers, but the roofs placed on most tour buses don’t provide adequate protection in case of a rollover, nor do the windows have the proper glazed covering. When involved in an accident, top-heavy vehicles like a bus can flip on the road. Without adequate strength in the roof or windows, the possibility of roof crush increases—leading to more severe injuries. There have been recent cases about the dangers of “party buses,” in which preventable circumstances killed victims. One instance involved a girl who leaned against the inside of the bus and fell out of the emergency exit—a door that is supposed to have a particular lock on it to prevent accidental openings.
As a result of not requiring better safety equipment, thousands are injured or killed every year and millions are put at risk.
Highlighting the Issue with a 2007 Atlanta Bus Crash
In March 2012, the U.S. Senate approved bus safety legislation tightening requirements for bus drivers as well as the companies that operate the vehicles. The bill was introduced after a 2007 bus crash in Atlanta that killed seven people. In that accident, the bus driver accidentally drove the vehicle onto an exit ramp and crashed through a barrier wall, causing the bus to fall onto the highway below. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into the accident placed blame on driver error and poor traffic signals.
Among other things, the bill requires bus designs to include seat belts and stronger seating systems to reduce the risk of injuries to passengers in the event of an accident. Investigators believe that fewer passengers would have died in the Atlanta accident had the bus been equipped with seat belts. The legislation also calls for more advanced training for bus drivers, and the installation of anti-ejection glazing windows, which can help reduce the risk of passengers being thrown from buses in the event of a collision or crash.
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Crashes Involving School, City & Charter Buses in Houston, Texas
According to the American School Bus Council, school buses are designed to be safer than even passenger vehicles. Although this may be true, little is said regarding the safety of other drivers on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that school bus drivers are some of the most highly screened and well-trained drivers on the road. Their driving records are frequently checked, they are randomly tested for alcohol and drugs, and they are trained to perform emergency medical procedures.
While no system is foolproof, school buses are safer than most vehicles of their size on the road. Conversely, city buses, charter buses, and other types of buses are not held to as high of standards—making them dangerous commercial vehicles. For example, take city buses which operate on a strict deadline. It is the job of the bus driver to get their passengers to the next stop on time. Unfortunately, sometimes, this can come at the risk of safety.
School Bus Accident Statistics
When we send our children off to school, we do so with the expectation that they will arrive at school and return home safely. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) collects data on the number of school bus accidents that occur nationwide.
Since 2003, there have been nearly 1,400 school bus accidents that resulted in one or more fatalities. In those crashes, the vast majority of the fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicle that collided with the bus.
Below is a breakdown that accounts for the total number of fatalities in school bus accident.
- Occupants of other vehicle – 71%
- Non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.) – 21%
- Occupants of the school bus – 8%
Children Killed In School Bus Accidents
According to the same statistics collected by the DOT, 344 children have been killed in school bus accidents since 2003. Surprisingly, very few are killed while riding the bus. The majority of the fatalities occurred as an occupant of another vehicle or as a pedestrian. Only 55 of the fatalities occurred to children who were on the bus during the accident. Children who were riding in another passenger car accounted for 161 of the deaths. Another 128 were pedestrians or pedalcyclists who were struck by a school bus or another passenger car while boarding or exiting.
School Bus Safety
The most preventable of the child fatalities are the ones that occur to pedestrians. There are laws in place that require motorists to stop behind a bus while it is loading or unloading students. Unfortunately, drivers who are in a hurry or are simply not paying attention do not always heed those traffic safety laws. For that reason, we cannot always rely on other motorists to obey traffic laws in order to protect our children. While many schools routinely remind students of safe practices for getting on and off the bus, that is not always the case.
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Bus Driver Training
In order to become a bus driver, an individual must pass their CDL test. While the requirements differ for each state, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 did much to regulate the industry. All commercial vehicles are different, which is why depending on what the driver is going to drive, they have to pass additional tests.
Commercial drivers, such as individuals who drive buses, will also need to go through additional training and meet certain requirements. For example, because bus drivers interact with the people they are transporting, they will be tested for their people skills. Their hearing ability will also be tested to ensure that they can hear a forced whisper from five feet away without a hearing aid. Finally, their vision will be tested to ensure that it is at least 20/40.
Other important characteristics that a bus driver will be tested for include:
- Customer service
- Hand-eye coordination
- Physical health
For more information on the qualifications and standards for commercial drivers, click here.
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Who Can Be Held Liable for a Bus Accident?
Unlike car accidents, it can be difficult to determine who is liable for a bus accident. The party liable is usually determined by analyzing the accident. Unfortunately, it's often the insurer or well-funded defendants who provide accident analysis, meaning the analysis is done by the people who want you to recover as little as possible.
Privately-Owned Bus Accidents
Filing a claim against a privately-owned bus company is more complex than filing a claim for a car accident. There are multiple entities that could be found liable for any given bus accident. Often, multiple bus companies work together to provide transportation, necessitating a thorough investigation to make sure all potential defendants are included in the case. Discovering the conduct and policies that led to your crash requires experience, resources, and relentless effort—that's why hiring a seasoned bus accident attorney is vital for your case.
Private bus companies have contingency plans and strategies in place for claimants like you. They put pressure on plaintiffs, offering low-ball offers while investigating ways to relieve themselves of responsibility. Their investigators and insurers are incentivized to keep you from getting the money you deserve. The only way to fight back is to have investigators, adjusters, and expert witnesses in your corner. That's what Arnold & Itkin provides.
Government-Owned Bus Accidents
Government bus accident claims are far different from private buses. For one, government entities can be more immune to lawsuits. In many cases, it is a challenge to recover compensation for damages because it is difficult to file a claim. Each state has different procedural rules for filing a claim against the government. For the most part, victims must file claims directly with the local entity responsible for operating the bus during the accident. Sometimes, multiple parties can be held responsible for contributory negligence, and if a private party is included on that list, you'll have more options at your disposal. Call us for a free review to learn what you can do.
The claim must state the following:
- The specific person, entity, or employee that was allegedly negligent
- A detailed description of the accident
- The victim’s name
- The case for the scope of damages the claim is for
After filing the claim, the government will review and will work with the victim to compensate for their injuries if the claim is accepted. If a bus accident victim wants to file a claim against the bus driver or government entity, he or she must file within six months after the accident. The statute of limitations can also be much shorter.
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How Are Cars, Bicycle & Pedestrians Endangered?
During a bus accident, not only are passengers in danger, the safety and well being of other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the road are jeopardized. While the large size of a bus perfectly serves the purpose of transporting many individuals at once, it also poses a problem for others on the road, particularly when it comes to an accident. There is a significant difference in size and weight when comparing a bus to a passenger vehicle. On the road, a bus could easily cause serious damage to the smaller, lighter vehicle if they were to collide into each other.
About Houston, TX
Houston is one of the largest and most populous cities in the United States. As of July 2021, Houston had an estimated population of nearly 2.89 million and encompassed a total land area of approximately 640 square miles. With the nicknames “Space City,” “H-Town,” “the 713,” and “Bayou City,” Houston is known for its strong economy, its diversity, and its rich culture. Houston is the seat of Harris County and the most populous city in Texas. It was founded in 1836 and incorporated in 1837 and has since been established as a major cultural and industrial center, not to mention a transportation hub.
In addition to being home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which helped get the first man on the moon, Houston is home to the largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions in the world, the Texas Medical Center. The Houston Ship Channel and Port of Houston further solidify the city as a center for trade and commerce, and Houston is home to more Fortune 500 company headquarters than any U.S. city other than New York, NY.
Houston is considered heavily reliant on automobiles; as of 2016, an estimated 77.2% of commuters drove to work alone. For those who do not have cars or prefer other modes of transportation, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) offers public transportation by bus in a service area covering more than 1,300 square miles, including the greater Houston area and nearby unincorporated communities. The local bus network in Houston includes a fleet of more than 1,200 vehicles and serves about 275,000 people every day.
For children attending Houston Independent School District (Houston ISD) schools, the Transportation Department provides transportation to and from school, athletic events, field trips, and more. About 36,000 students are transported by Houston ISD buses every day; the fleet includes about 1,000 vehicles.
Houston Links & Resources
Call a Houston Bus Crash Lawyer Today: (888) 493-1629
Unfortunately, recovering damages after a bus accident can be challenging. Many buses are owned or operated by government entities, making liability more complicated. Even if you have been injured on a privately owned bus, filing a bus accident complaint is nothing like dealing with the aftermath of a normal car accident. Deadlines to file required notices pass very quickly, often within days of the incident. Arnold & Itkin is prepared to help.
We have successfully recovered billions in verdicts and settlements, and we know what it takes to help you do the same successfully. Bus accident victims should not suffer any more than they already have from their injuries, and we are here to make sure that everything possible is done to help prevent further pain and suffering.
Immediate action must be taken to preserve a claim against the responsible party. Call Arnold & Itkin at (888) 493-1629 today.