Two Killed in School Bus Crash, Government Urges Seat Belt Regulations

Bus accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of a recent crash outside Indianapolis, IN, that injured ten students and killed the bus driver and a five-year-old student. Two of the injured students are currently in critical condition.

On March 18, 2013, around 7:45 am, the bus full of students was making its way to Lighthouse Charter School when it struck a bridge support beam on the driver’s side. Aerial photos show the front of the bus jammed into the beam as rescue teams attempt to free four students stuck on the bus and one other student who was flung under the front wheel of the school bus.

Rescue efforts took 45 minutes, as at least 50 children were on the bus that morning. The driver, Thomas Spencer II, 60, died at the scene, as did the student, a five-year-old girl. Although roads were wet at the time of the rescue, it is not yet clear what exactly caused the accident. The bus was operated by Miller Transportation, which has a contract with Lighthouse Charter School. There are no reports of previous accidents by Miller.

Just a week before this fatal crash, on March 7, 2013, a school bus in Oklahoma was involved in a three-vehicle crash. The bus was stopped to load children, with a Toyota waiting behind it, when a third car, unable to stop in time, rear-ended the two vehicles. The driver of the third car died at the scene. No one else involved in the accident was injured.

In 2012, a school bus driver was killed in a crash in a suburb of San Antonio, Texas. The crash involved two school buses, which collided head-on. At least six children were injured in this accident, all kindergarten-aged. Three of those students were taken to local hospitals.

Between 1998 and 2008, more than 1,500 people died in school transportation crashes, according to data from the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHSTA). This amounts to nearly 20 students on average that died each year in school transportation-related crashes. About half of pedestrians killed in school-related crashes were between the ages of five and seven.

In addition to these numbers, there were nearly 55 fatal commercial bus crashes between 1999 and 2008 in the US, which resulted in more than 185 lost lives. Commercial buses transport more than 750 million people every year, and about 65% of these passengers are children and senior citizens. Although they are generally safe, one of the most fatal occurrences in a bus crash is the possibility of the bus rolling over.

The NHSTA recently announced upcoming laws that will address this issue, and will emphasize the need for seat-belts on all commercial buses. The federal agency hopes to finalize these new standards by the end of 2013.

The debate over whether seat-belts should be mandated on commercial buses has been ongoing since 1977. Recent catastrophic bus crashes, however, have renewed interest in this hot-button topic. Two this year alone took the lives of eight people and injured more than 30. In the crash that killed eight, the bus lost control, struck a car, and flipped over.

Bus passengers are often able to survive the initial impact of crashes, but when passengers are ejected from their seats during a roll-over, injuries become significantly more fatal. In 2012, Congress requested that the NHSTA implement these seat belt mandates as part of the Transportation Reauthorization bill. Although the new laws will not require the nearly 30,000 commercial buses currently in operation to have seat belts, the agency has not ruled out taking action on those older buses in the future. The project, which applies only to new buses, is expected to cost about $25 million per year, or $13,000 per bus.

Of course, individual passengers need to take the initiative to wear t seat belts once this legislation is implemented. Bus crash lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge all commercial bus riders to wear seat belts, as they reduce the risk of death in a rollover crash by over 75%. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a school or commercial bus crash, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for your injuries.


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