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Jonathan Rosenfeld

March 2, 2023

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American roads are filled with tour buses, municipal transit buses, coach buses, school buses, airport buses, intercity buses, private buses, common carrier buses, government buses, and more.

Unfortunately, bus accidents are everyday occurrences due to the inherent risks of driving long distances and taking longer to start and stop due to their size, shape, and weight. Here, we review bus accident statistics as well as review the data for school bus accident statistics to give you an idea of the breadth of this issue.

Were you severely injured in a bus accident, or did you lose a loved one through a wrongful death caused by another’s negligence? The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help ensure that your family receives the financial compensation they deserve.

Contact our bus accident attorneys at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation. All information you share with our lawyers remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) [1] defines buses as any vehicle that transports nine or more passengers. Statistics show that it is not particularly dangerous to ride as a passenger on nearly any bus.

In most communities, bus operators are not required to install seat belts to maximize safety and instead rely on compartmentalization to protect passengers in a collision. However, when a bus accident does occur, the results are often catastrophic.

Bus Accidents in the United States: Statistics and Facts

The FMCSA released a Commercial Motor Vehicles Report in 2017 claiming that the United States uses over 450,000 school buses and nearly 550,000 commercial buses for private and public transport, accommodating over 360 million passengers every year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), buses travel over 28 billion miles each year. Other national bus accident statistics and facts include:

  • The NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) [2] statistics show that in 2018, 5096 buses and large trucks were involved in fatal accidents, an increase of 1% from the previous year
  • Data from the FARS report reveals that between 2017 and 2018, bus and commercial truck fatalities stayed consistent at 0.16 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled
  • Statistical trends reveal a 34% decrease in the number of fatalities involving buses and commercial trucks between 2005 and 2009 which increased by 1% in 2018
  • The NHTSA reports that between 2008 and 2018, 12% of all fatal bus crashes involved intercity buses, 40% involved school buses, and 35% involved transit buses
  • 2018 data reveals 85 school bus fatal crashes in the United States and 15 intercity bus fatalities, the lowest numbers on record since the NHTSA began gathering crash information in 1975
  • 4862 fatal crashes were reported involving large trucks and buses
  • 112,000 injury crashes were reported in 2018 involving commercial trucks and buses
  • 414,000 bus and commercial vehicle accidents led to property damage in 2018, an increase of 14% from 2017
  • Bus accident statistics reveal that 234 fatal crashes were reported in 2018 involving buses
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [3] data reveals that there were 992,152 buses registered in the United States in 2018, up nearly 9000 from the year before
  • The FMCSA data reveals over 27,000 injuries were reported in 2018 involving bus crashes
  • While 274 fatalities were reported involving bus crashes in 2017, only 44 bus passengers died, and the remainder were in passenger cars, riding bicycles, pedestrians, or motorcyclists
  • Bus accident statistics reveal that approximately 25,000 people were injured in bus crashes in 2017, occurring in approximately 15,000 bus crashes

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation [4], approximately 183 bus crashes occur every day, or over 67,000 accidents annually.

Deadliest Bus Accidents in the United States

Wrong-way drivers and bus driver mistakes have caused nearly every horrific bus crash in the United States. The ten most catastrophic bus crashes in recent memory include:

  • Carrollton, Kentucky, May 1988 – A Church bus returning passengers from the King’s Island Amusement Park ignited after being struck by a wrong-way drunk driver, costing the lives of 27 people. The bus occupants were unable to escape when the collision jammed the bus’s front door shut.
  • Yuba City, California, May 1976 – Brake failure caused a bus to overturn on the freeway, killing 29 Yuba City High School choir students as the bus plummeted over 20 feet down a steep embankment, crushing the vehicle.
  • Dallas, Texas, September 2005 – Nursing home operators hired a bus to transport their residents away from impending Hurricane Rita approaching from the Gulf of Mexico. Another vehicle struck the bus heading into Dallas on the congested highway, bursting into flames, claiming the lives of 22 passengers and the driver. Investigators traced the fire to insufficient lubrication of the bus’s rear axle that ignited upon impact.
  • The Bronx, New York, 2011 – A tour bus traveling at high speed overturned on the freeway, striking a metal sign column, ripping the vehicle apart, leaving 19 severely injured and 15 dead. State prosecutors filed manslaughter charges against the driver, arguing that the bus crash occurred due to fatigue. However, the driver was acquitted.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana, May 1999 – A New Orleans’ casino-bound bus traveling from Mississippi ran off the freeway, peering into oncoming Highway traffic before hitting a barrier. The bus crash caused 24 severe injuries and 22 deaths.

Incident Rate: School Bus Accidents

School buses transport approximately 25 million students every day in America, remaining the most extensive mass transit system in the U.S. Although bus injury crashes are rare, they can occur and often leave students severely injured.

The National Safety Council [5] data reports that 109 people were killed in 2019 in school bus crashes. Many of these accidents occurred when school children were entering and exiting the school bus.

Statistics reveal that between 2010 and 2019, approximately 69% of all school bus-related fatalities involved drivers and passengers in other vehicles that collided with the school bus. Other victims included pedestrians (17% of all cases), school bus passengers (6%), school bus drivers (5%), and bicyclists (3%).

Science Direct released data showing that a bus crash severity correlates to the driver’s age, risky behavior, and gender. Statistically, bus drivers 65 years and older, female bus drivers, and young bus drivers 24 years old and younger are at increased risk of being involved in a bus accident.

Other student transport statistics include:

  • Most children involved in school bus crashes are reportedly between 5 and 13 years old
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported over 13,000 school bus accident-related injuries in 2019, down significantly from over 16,000 injuries in 2016
  • Statistically, 70% of all school bus fatalities involve occupants in other vehicles and less than 20% involved a bicyclist or pedestrian
  • Bus accident statistics reveal that approximately 10% of all school bus fatalities involve children and adults riding on the bus at the time of the collision
  • Approximately 68% of all school bus accidents in 2018 involved the bus hitting another motorist, bicyclist, or pedestrian
  • Nearly 55% of all occupants injured in crashes involving buses were children and adult passengers in 2017, and 45% were the school bus drivers
  • Over 1000 pedestrians were severely injured in school bus crashes in 2019
  • Statistically, most fatal bus crashes involved being struck from the front, followed by the left side and right side
  • Many school boards have discussed installing seat belts on their school buses but chose not to due to the high expense of retrofitting their vehicles and the slight chance that school children will be involved in a collision
  • The vast majority of pedestrian fatalities caused by school buses occurred when the vehicle was traveling straight or starting to move on the road
  • An estimated 471,400 yellow school buses are registered in the U.S., transporting K-12 students to public and private educational institutions
  • The National Center for Statistics and Analysis reports 15 pedestrians died in 2019 due to bus-related accidents, down significantly from the 23 pedestrian deaths the previous year

Data reveals that between 2006 and 2015, 1313 people died in school transportation-related accidents, with an average of 131 fatalities annually. Over that decade, 301 schoolchildren were killed in school transportation accidents, including 54 deaths while riding as passengers, 137 deaths in other vehicles, eight bicyclists, and 102 pedestrians.

Bus accident statistics reveal that approximately 32% of all fatalities involved in school bus crashes in 2017 occurred when the driver was:

  • Initiating movement from a stop (10%)
  • Turning left (6%)
  • Negotiating a right or left turn (5%)
  • Accelerating (3%)
  • Turning right (3%)
  • Overtaking or passing other vehicles (2%)
  • Slowing down (1%)
  • Starting or stopping at a parked position (1%)
  • Unknown reasons (1%)

Over the last decade, more people 19 years and older died in crashes involving school buses than any younger age group. Statistically, most bus fatalities have occurred between 3:00 PM and 4:00 PM M-F, and 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM M-F

Common Bus Accident Injuries

Catastrophic bus accidents often result in severe injuries and death. Unlike driving in a passenger vehicle, buses are not equipped with safety features, including seat belts and airbags. In many cases, passengers involved in a bus accident will fall on the bus floor or are ejected through the window during a collision.

Bus accident statistics reveal that the most common injuries occurring in bus crashes include:

  • Traumatic brain injury– A lack of seat belts could cause catastrophic bodily harm, including traumatic brain injuries when the passenger is jolted forward and backward, hitting their head on metal bars, seats, windows, and the floor.
  • Spinal cord injury– The intense impact of a catastrophic bus crash could damage the spinal cord resulting in muscle weakness, tingling sensations, numbness, and paralysis. Catastrophic spinal cord injuries usually require years of therapy to restore damaged nerves fully.
  • Fractures broken bones– The force of a bus crash can fracture the bones of all involved in the crash, including passengers, other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Catastrophic bone injuries could leave the victim with disfiguring scars.
  • Burns– Many catastrophic bus crashes have resulted in explosions and fires when the forceful impact crashes into a large fuel tank. Severe burns are usually excruciating and require skin graft surgery and reconstructive (cosmetic) procedures in specialized burn units.
  • Lacerations and cuts– Shattered glass in a horrific bus crash could cause the victim’s deep cuts and lacerations requiring stitches and bandaging
  • Internal organ damage– The forceful impact of a single or multi-vehicle bus crash could result in life-threatening internal organ damage when the victim takes a blow to the chest, head, neck, or abdomen.
  • Amputation– A lack of seat belts on buses that roll over during a crash could result in catastrophic injuries, including severed extremities, or crushed arms and legs, leading to an amputation.
  • Internal injuries– Any major vehicle accident, including bus crashes, could result in internal injuries to soft tissue, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.

Many bus and car accident victims are left with life-altering changes and severe injuries that take months or years to heal completely, when possible. In some cases, the victim suffers catastrophic spinal damage, leaving them with tetraplegia, quadriplegia, or paraplegia, requiring a lifetime of assistance for everyday activities.

Bus Accident Statistics: Potentially Liable Parties

Bus owners and operators are typically legally liable for any passenger injured while being transported or when entering or exiting the doors. However, establishing liability can be difficult when multiple parties are concerned.

Potential parties that could have liability issues in a bus crash include:

  • Bus companies
  • Commercial bus driver
  • Director of bus operations
  • School bus driver
  • Tour bus operator
  • Bus operating supervisors
  • Charter bus operators
  • Bus maintenance crews
  • Municipalities operating public transportation, including the state, county, or city
  • Bus stop property owners
  • Vehicle manufacturers
  • Bus component manufacturers
  • Tire manufacturers

Many liability cases are built on multiple parties being legally responsible for causing a bus accident, like a bus company that hires an incompetent bus driver who causes a collision. Additionally, while a bus driver might have caused the crash, a poorly maintained bus that led to the accident might be a liability issue for the bus owner or operating company.

Bus manufacturers may be found responsible for the bus accident if a manufacturing defect led to a crash. Adverse road conditions might have caused a bus accident, or highway departments might have failed to properly install appropriate road signage to identify dangerous conditions like tight curves and road hazards.

Common Causes of Bus Crashes

Fully loaded buses can weigh 42,000 pounds or more, which is significantly heavier than a 3000-pound passenger car. The disparity between the weight and size of vehicles during a car/bus accident could result in fatal injuries.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the major contributing factors that cause thousands of bus accidents every year include:

  • Adverse weather conditions
  • Aggressive or reckless driving
  • Bus company negligence
  • Bus driver negligence
  • Bus fire
  • Blind spots
  • Dangerous roads
  • Defective or faulty components
  • Driver error
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence
  • Equipment defects
  • Failing to obey traffic safety rules
  • Faulty tires
  • Fatigue
  • Hazardous road conditions
  • Insufficient bus maintenance
  • Insufficient training
  • Lack of bus driving experience
  • Malfunctioning brakes
  • Mechanical failure
  • Negligent or reckless driving
  • Other careless drivers
  • Speeding
  • Traffic congestion
  • Weight distribution issues causing instability

A University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute [6] study reported the effects that bus drivers have on causing accidents. The report claims that bus drivers 65 years and older are more at increased risk of causing a bus accident than any other age group.

Statistically, 65 years and older bus drivers have an 18.6% increase in causing a bus accident with minor injuries, a 33.1% increase in causing severe non-incapacitating injuries, a 52.3% increase in causing incapacitating injuries, and an 18% increase in causing wrongful death.

Don’t Be a Statistic. Hire a Bus Accident Injury Attorney to Handle Your Compensation Case

Are you the victim of a bus accident, or did you lose a loved one through a wrongful death caused by another’s negligence? The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC serve as the nation’s legal advocate for people harmed in bus accidents throughout the U.S.

Contact our legal team today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation. Our attorneys understand that not everyone can hire a law firm to handle their case.

We accept all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This arrangement ensures you pay our legal fees only after successfully resolving your bus accident case through a jury trial award or negotiated settlement.

Our law firm currently follows CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Covid-19 (coronavirus epidemic) social distancing guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.

Resources: [1] Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, [2] Fatality Analysis Reporting System, [3] Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, [4] U.S. Department of Transportation, [5] National Safety Council, [6] University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

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