Chicago-Area School Bus Involved in Accident

A school bus in Lake County near the Wisconsin border was knocked on its side this morning and officials are saying at least one death has been reported. Details are still developing, but bus accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have learned that a school official believes all 25 children on the bus suffered only minor injuries.

The accident occurred a little after 8 a.m. on Route 173 near Wadsworth in Newport Township. Photos show the bus on its side with at least a dozen ambulances and a medical helicopter. A Jeep and SUV were also involved in the wreck, and reports are indicating that it was one of these motorists who was killed at the scene. The school bus was about a mile away from Newport Elementary at the time of the accident, and parents of Beach Park School District children can call 847.599.5330 for more information. Many of the injured were taken to Vista Medical Center East Hospital in Waukegan.

Just over a year ago, in March 2012, a similar crash outside Indianapolis, IN injured ten students and killed the bus driver and a five-year-old student. The bus was traveling to Lighthouse Charter School when it struck a railway bridge support beam. Aerial photos showed the bus stuck under the bridge as rescue teams attempted to free students, one of whom ended up under the front wheel of the bus. At least 50 Indiana children were on the bus that morning, and rescue efforts took 45 minutes. Both the driver and child died at the scene.

One family filed a lawsuit against the school bus company, Miller Transportation, in connection to this crash. The suit was filed on behalf of three siblings who were all on the bus at the time. One of the siblings, a ten-year-old, broke his leg in the accident. The family is alleging that Miller was negligent in its responsibility of providing students with safe transportation. Specifically, the suit is alleging that the school bus should have had seat belts, and that the company failed to warn parents that its buses were not equipped with them. It also claims that Miller failed to properly train and supervise the driver and his health, and that Miller failed to inspect its buses for defective or unsafe conditions.

Only a handful of states require school buses to have seatbelts, including California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. Buses in California and Texas require buses to have lap and shoulder (three-point) seat belts. The University of Alabama is currently in the midst of assessing the impact and realistic use of seat belts in school buses in that state. Researchers installed video cameras in 12 school buses to monitor seat belt use and its effects on student behavior. UA is the first institution to perform a comprehensive study on seat belt use in school buses.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), in the decade between 1998 and 2008, more than 1,500 American died in school transportation crashes. This averages about 20 people per year that are killed while on the way to or from school. Additionally, about half of those killed in school-related crashes were between the ages of five and seven.

In 2009 the NHSTA reconsidered its seat belt requirements. Now, those buses weighing less than 10,000 pounds must have, among other things, three-point belts, and new requirements for seat belts voluntarily installed in larger buses. Unfortunately, buses less than 10,000 pounds account for only a small portion of buses in operation in the United States (less than 20%).

About 24 million children are transported by school buses every year, and they are generally considered a safe mode of transportation. However, a small percentage of children and seriously injured and killed in school bus crashes each year, all of which cause great devastation to those families and friends. Bus accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge all bus riders to wear seat belts when they are made available, as they reduce the risk of death by over 75% in a rollover crash, such as the one that took place today in Illinois.

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