Rhode Island Legislature Adjourns Without Passage of School Bus Seat Belt Law

Experienced School Bus Accident Attorneys Serving all of RI and MA

Rhode Island lawmakers adjourned in late June 2016, without full action on a bill that would have required all new state school buses to be outfitted with child restraint systems. A safety belt bill actually made its way successfully through Rhode Island’s Senate, but died in the House. The demise of the bill leaves open the question: Should the state’s buses be fitted with the same sorts of restraint systems that are required for passenger vehicles?

School Transportation-Related Crash Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during a 10-year period beginning in 2003, 1,353 people were killed in school transportation-related crashes – an average of 135 fatalities per year. NHTSA defines a school transportation-related crash as one that involves, either directly or indirectly, a school bus body vehicle, or a non-school bus functioning as a school bus, transporting children to or from school or school-related activities. Overall, school transportation is quite safe. During the same ten-year period, there were 348,253 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 0.35 percent was classified as school transportation-related.

Most School Transportation-Related Fatalities Were Not Bus Occupants

The NHTSA study revealed some interesting facts:

  • Occupants of school transportation vehicles accounted for eight percent of the fatalities
  • Nonoccupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.) accounted for 21 percent of the fatalities
  • Most (71 percent) of the people who lost their lives in these crashes were occupants of other vehicles involved

Inside the School Bus, It’s Pretty Safe

According to the American School Bus Council, school buses are the safest way to transport children to and from school. Safety factors include:

  • The color and size of school buses make them easily visible and identifiable
  • Their height provides excellent driver visibility and raises the bus passenger compartment above car impact height
  • Inside the bus, the children are generally compartmentalized, and surrounded with padding and structural integrity to secure the entire container
  • Seat backs are raised and the shell is reinforced for protection against impact

Rollover: The Most Dangerous Type of School Bus Accident

The NHTSA notes that the most dangerous type of school bus accident is the rollover. While bus rollovers are rare, due to the slow speeds ordinarily maintained, they do occur. One reason is that a bus is relatively “top-heavy.” Its center of gravity is much higher than that of a passenger car. Injury to school bus occupants during a rollover can occur in a number of ways:

  • Intrusion – where occupants are struck by twisted pieces of the bus or by items torn loose in the crash
  • Projection – where occupants are thrown about inside the bus, striking the bus interior
  • Total and partial ejection – where occupants are partially or completely thrown from the bus itself, striking the ground, the road surface, or other objects

Victims of School Transportation-Related Crashes May Recover Damages

As noted above, even without seat belts, school buses are relatively safe vehicles when it comes to their passengers. Accidents do, of course, occur. Quite often, those injured are in other vehicles or are pedestrians or bicycle riders. In a split second, lives can be lost or changed forever. In many cases, those who have suffered injury can recover monetary damages for their loss, as well as their pain and suffering.

The injury lawyers at the Bottaro Law Firm, LLC have the skill and experience to represent victims of school bus and other motor vehicle crashes. We also have the resources to investigate the accident and fight to protect your legal rights. Get the sort of representation that you deserve. We will pursue your case at no cost until we win. Remember that delay can harm your case. Our experienced legal team is available 24/7 for a free consultation. Give us a call at 866-529-9700, or complete our convenient online contact form.