Can More School-Transportation-Related Accidents be Prevented?

Jun 11, 2019 by

How Safety-Minded Districts Can Avoid School-Transportation Accidents

(credit: Noah Kolkman)

Thousands of car crashes occur on U.S. streets and highways each year. Millions of people are injured or killed annually because of these collisions.

And though any painful or deadly auto accident is bad, the emotional consequences get considerably higher when children are involved. In spite of numerous safety laws designed to protect young school children, school buses and other school-transportation vehicles feature in hundreds of car accidents each year in this country.

So the question is: Can we do more to prevent such mishaps and keep school-aged children safer?

School-Transportation-Related Accident Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a school-transportation-related crash is an accident that involves, whether directly or indirectly, a school bus vehicle or non-school bus that’s functioning as one because it is transporting children to or from school or school-related activities. In simpler terms, it’s any vehicle a school uses to provide transportation for its students.

The NHTSA has gathered research on school-transportation-related crashes over the years and found that 1,344 people were killed in such incidents between 2004 and 2013, of which 327 were school-aged children. An estimated 142 of the student fatalities occurred when the child or youth was an occupant of another vehicle.

Another 116 of the school-age deaths were pedestrians. As one might assume, more school-age pedestrians were killed between the hours of 7 to 8 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m.

When you consider the fact that an estimated 500,000 school buses and other school-transportation vehicles go out on the roads each school day – to transport some 25 million children to and from school – the overall safety rate is really not too bad. Still, one lost life is a life too many.

In order to prevent another 1,344 people from being killed in the coming decade, we must continue to innovate and find new ways to precautions.

Prevention Tips and Strategies

Vehicle collisions of any kind are an undeniable drag on society. Not only do they cause traffic delays and other logistical issues, but they directly affect families on an individual basis.

As Craig Swapp & Associates explains, auto accidents can produce both economic damages (medical bills, vehicular damage, loss of earnings, etc.) and non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, etc.). When a death is involved, the stakes are considerably higher.

If we are truly committed to raising healthy students and preserving the families of school-aged children, we need to keep everyone safe at all hours of the school day. Here are some ways we might be able to accomplish this and prevent further school-transportation-related incidents.

  1. Greater Vetting of Drivers

School bus drivers already go through background checks and interviews, but a stronger vetting process might go a long way toward eliminating the handful of drivers who are most likely to become involved in a collision.

  1. More Student Education

Most students simply don’t have any idea what they should be doing to protect themselves when they travel in school-transportation vehicles – particularly young children. Parents can improve the situation by teaching their children how to enter and exit the bus in an orderly fashion; how to remain seated during travel; and the importance of assuming other drivers do not see them when they are walking the sidewalks and crossing streets.

  1. Required Seat Belt Use

Very few states have legislation with regard to the use or even the installation of seatbelts on school buses. Even in the states that have such laws, enforcement turns out to be fairly weak.

While the NHTSA believes all school buses should carry seatbelts, the federal government hasn’t provided the necessary funding to add them to existing buses. This omission should be addressed, and all students should be required to be buckled in at all times.

  1. Greater Care at Loading and Drop-Off Zones

More school bus injuries and fatalities occur at loading and drop-off zones than at any other area. Visibility is typically the biggest issue, and young children (ages 4 to 7) face the greatest risk of being hit.

School districts need to evaluate what’s being done at these zones each year to ensure maximum effort is given to reduce such incidents.

Sweeping Changes Needed

Something needs to be done to prevent the 134 school-accident-related deaths and thousands of injuries that occur on an annual basis in the U.S. By implementing a few of the changes highlighted in this article, progress is possible … but we have to do it together. The well-being of our youth must be given a higher priority than politics, fiscal strategies, and district zoning laws.

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