Demand for affordable and accessible public transportation is continuously growing. Tour and transit buses are especially common in populated cities, like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg. It is also common to see tourists riding buses, particularly when touring and traveling to different landmarks in a city. The most common types of buses include school buses and public transportation system vehicles. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) states that people in the United States took 9.9 billion trips on public transportation services in 2019 alone!
While most buses travel without any problems, there are a few cases where passengers have been involved in a bus accident. Multiple factors can lead to bus accidents: distracted or negligent drivers, road or construction problems, or an improper bus configuration or structure.
A bus accident can occur when a bus collides with another motorist, parked car, pedestrian, or any inanimate object. This is often the result of drivers being distracted or careless. Distractions that can interfere with a driver’s ability to operate the vehicle adequately include: taking their hands off the wheel, talking to other passengers, texting on their device, changing the station/song, or not looking at the road for any reason. A driver can be held responsible for causing an accident when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, incorrectly trained or uncertified, or fail to follow legal traffic laws. Drivers should have their undivided attention on driving and ensuring the safety of all the people they share the road with.
Sometimes, infrastructure can be an issue for large vehicles and buses. For example, if a bus is trying to make a wide turn on a very narrow road, they may hit another vehicle accidentally. The right side of a bus is considered to be a “blind side”, meaning that the driver may be unable to see a car when it is on the right side. As a result of buses being very large and heavy, they may not take sharp, fast turns well. Being top heavy means that buses are more difficult to control than regular commercial vehicles. They can potentially be at risk of tipping over. In most occasions, there are separate routes that buses can take to avoid potentially dangerous roads.
It can also be the bus company’s fault for a bus accident. It is the company’s responsibility to conduct certain vehicle and maintenance examinations on a repeated basis. This will ensure the safety of not only the driver, but also the passengers that will board the bus. Some companies are responsible for hiring their own certified drivers. Selecting an unprofessional and inexperienced driver may cause a devastating accident. Failure to adhere to codes and regulations can cause the company to be in violation of state laws and become liable for any crashes that occur as a result of their carelessness.
There are laws that are set in place that specifically address school buses. As explained by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), motorists that are behind the bus or in the adjacent opposing lanes must stop at least 10 feet away from the school bus when their red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended. If there is a physical barrier that separates the two opposing lanes, the drivers in the opposing lane can continue driving. Once all the passengers have left the bus and are out of the way from traffic, the bus will continue to move again and all traffic will follow. If someone is in violation of the laws, they can receive a $250 fine, 5 points on their driving records, and a suspension of their license for 60 days.
The types of injuries people can receive from bus accidents can range from mild to catastrophic injuries. Some people may only experience short-term injuries, such as a headache or cuts and scrapes. However, some people may not be so lucky when they are involved in a grave and critical accident. Catastrophic injures are so severe that they affect the spine, spinal cord, brain, skull, or spinal structures. Symptoms can include neurological disorders, internal injuries, numerous bone fractures, and scarring burn injuries. Individuals can become paralyzed from life-threatening accidents. Therefore, it is imperative that all drivers must be trained and licensed to operate their vehicle while maintaining their full concentration on the road.