Earlier this month, most Alabama kids returned to the school. State school districts operate more than 7,000 buses, and they travel a combined 150 million miles per year transporting our kids to and from school. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely riding a school bus than a private passenger car. But while school bus accidents are less common other types of auto accidents, when they do occur, they can result in severe and catastrophic injuries.
Now that school is back in full swing, it is a good time to focus on safety and what we can all do to keep our kids protected. Here are five things motorists can do to avoid school bus accidents:
- Avoid Distractions while Driving
Mornings can be pretty hectic. Sometimes, we are in a rush to get our breakfast and coffee and get to work on time. On top of that, we have people texting us or trying to call us because they need something. We need to do our best to stay focused and avoid distractions any time we are driving, but especially in the morning when you are around school buses. Allow yourself plenty of time to get ready and take care of everything you need to before going to work. And put your cell phone away, it is not worth risking a life to answer a text – whoever it is can wait until you get where you are going.
- Be Mindful of Young Pedestrians
Children are at risk not only of an accident while riding a school bus, but also when they are walking to school or walking to and from the bus stop. When you are approaching a bus stop, slow down and watch for kids gathered around the stop and those that might be rushing to make the bus. Kids are unpredictable, and they often dash across the street at the last minute without paying attention to traffic. This is especially true with younger kids. Stay alert and be aware of kids walking nearby.
- Be Mindful of Young Bicyclists
Lots of Alabama kids like to ride their bikes to school, especially when the weather is nice. Kids on bikes can also be unpredictable. Sometimes, they ride through intersections paying no mind to vehicles that are stopped and waiting for them to cross. They also tend to make turns in front of cars without looking or signaling. Be extra careful and watch for kids on bikes in school zones and residential areas.
- Slow Down while Driving near a School Bus
Buses tend to drive much slower than regular vehicles. They also make frequent stops to pick up and drop off kids, and they are required to come to a complete stop at a railroad crossing. When you are driving behind a school bus, it is best to drive slowly yourself and give the bus plenty of extra space. A good rule of thumb is to stay at least 10 feet behind the bus at all times.
- Never Pass a School Bus Illegally
Alabama drivers are not allowed to pass stopped school or church buses under most circumstances. And if you are driving behind a school bus, you are required to stop when the signal arm is raised and remain stopped until the signal arm is lowered again. You also must stop while the signal arm is raised if you are approaching the bus from the other direction. The only exception is if you are driving on a divided highway with either four or six lanes, and there is a barrier or unpaved area between the directional lanes.
The state of Alabama is cracking down on motorists who pass school buses illegally. In 2016, a new law went into effect that gave school districts the option to install stop-arm cameras on their buses. Motorists who are caught on video violating school bus passing laws can be ticketed $300 and have points added to their driving record.
What to Do if You are in a School Bus Accident
Accidents can happen even if we drive safely and follow all the rules. This can occur because of poor driving conditions, negligence on the part of other drivers, mechanical defects, faulty vehicle parts, and other reasons. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a school bus accident that was the result of another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.
At Burge and Burge, we have extensive experience with even the most complex personal injury cases, including those involving school buses and other types of government and commercial vehicles. We are aggressive advocates on behalf of our clients, and we have the skills, resources, and commitment to ensure that parties responsible for vehicle accidents are held fully accountable.
For a free consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000, or you may send us a private and confidential message through our web contact form.