This school year, families and community members across Tennessee can do their part to avoid serious school bus accidents.
Memphis NBC affiliate WMC Action News 5 recently investigated the high number of school bus accidents that have occurred since mid-August in Shelby County, all involving drivers from private contractor Durham School Services. After one of the most recent accidents, the company's driver was charged with operating without a Tennessee driver's license - news that upset many parents.
At a school board meeting in late September, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said that the six bus accidents that have occurred since August 19 is far too many, although he also mentioned that new and unfamiliar routes may have been a factor in the increased prevalence of crashes.
School bus accidents are a concern for parents, school officials and law enforcement agencies across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 174 school-aged children died in school transportation-related crashes nationwide between 2003 and 2012. About 70 percent of these accidents involved school buses or vehicles serving as buses for students.
School bus safety tips
With school back in session, it's important for all families and community members in the Nashville area to understand what it means to engage in school bus safety to help avoid serious injuries. For children, this means arriving at the bus stop with plenty of time to spare and remaining at least six feet away from the curb until the bus comes to a complete stop.
Kids should also be reminded to never walk behind buses, only crossing the street at least 10 feet in front of the bus - and only when they're sure it is safe to do so. They should also avoid horseplay or pushing and shoving at the bus stop, as children can easily lose their balance and fall into the street, resulting in a very dangerous scenario.
There are also some safe practices people operating vehicles around buses and bus stops should keep in mind. The NHTSA recommends always watching out for children walking to bus stops before backing out of driveways, and to be extra careful when driving in school zones. If it's well known that children are present, especially in the early morning or afternoon, it's important to drive slowly and watch for kids walking in the street.
When driving near a school bus, motorists should remember that yellow flashing lights signify the bus is about to stop to pick up or drop off children. Red flashing lights and a stop sign extended on the left-hand side of the bus mean that the vehicle has stopped and kids are boarding or leaving the bus. It is illegal and unsafe to pass a school bus in this situation.
It is bus drivers' and the bus companies' responsibility to ensure that all children are transported to and from school as safely as possible. As the recent accidents in Shelby County demonstrate, bus companies might not be as diligent as they should be when screening drivers. An inexperienced or unqualified bus driver has a much higher likelihood of losing control or reacting incorrectly to hazardous situations, endangering children's safety.
If your child is injured in a bus accident and you believe the driver, bus company, school district or another party was at fault, your family might need to seek monetary damages to cover medical bills, rehabilitation costs and your emotional pain and suffering. Contact a knowledgeable Nashville personal injury attorney for more information on your legal options.