school bussesIn the popular children’s book series turned animated television show called The Magic School Bus, an unflagging and unflappable grade school teacher named Ms. Frizzle teaches her class scientific principles in the most unscientific way possible:  by taking them on field trips on a school bus that can adapt to underwater, deep space, subterranean, and even subcutaneous conditions at the drop of a hat.  While on Ms. Frizzle’s field trips, her indulgent pupils happen upon dinosaurs, see the contents of the human stomach firsthand, and visit the Arctic, but somehow never come to any harm serious enough to oblige their teacher to fill out an accident report.  (This is perhaps the most impressive magic of the titular school bus.)

A run-of-the-mill school bus like one might encounter in reality would not protect its passengers from volcanoes or digestive acids.  It is true, however, that a school bus’s low center of gravity and length afford it greater stability than most vehicles have.  School bus accidents are extremely rare, accounting for a trifling 0.23% of fatal traffic accidents.  Yet, this stability that ensures such safety to a bus’s passengers comes at the price of visibility and ease of operation:  Between 2001 and 2010, 85 people were killed after being struck by a school bus.

Because buses are comparatively large and unwieldy, most of the burden for avoiding a school bus accident is on your shoulders when you are in their vicinity.  Ergo, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration and other organizations have compiled guidelines for safe behavior around a school bus:

1. Stand back

Because of a school bus’s length and the height of the driver’s seat from the ground, the driver has a number of very large blind spots that should be generally avoided.  The rule of thumb is that you will want to give the bus a 10-foot radius unless you are actually boarding it, even if the bus has come to a complete stop.  You cannot predict the actions of a bus driver with total accuracy; and you cannot expect the driver to wee what you’re doing, either.

2. Look both ways before crossing the street at a crosswalk

This piece of advice may seem too obvious to mention; however, the broad “no-zones” that indicate those places around a bus which drivers cannot see demands that pedestrians crossing in front of them give them sufficient time to react.  The bus driver cannot detect a pedestrian on the sidewalk as easily as the driver of a small passenger vehicle.  You will only endanger yourself by surprising them.

3. Don’t loiter in the road

Maybe you want to take a picture of a quaint old house, but can’t get it all into your camera’s screen from the sidewalk.  Possibly, you’ve become so engrossed in a conversation that you’ve forgotten your surroundings.  In neither case is the solution to stand around in the road.  Even when the road does not get school bus traffic, lollygagging in a motor vehicle’s space is only asking for trouble.

4. Watch for passengers exiting a stopped bus

When driving past a stopped school bus, always look out for people who may be leaving/crossing the street—school zones in particular are characterized by heedless small people darting out of nowhere.

5. Don’t tailgate a bus

In addition to being somewhat handicapped by huge blind spots, buses also require a larger turning radius and more time to stop.  Always leave an ample following space between your own vehicle and a bus to provide them with enough space to execute their turns with confidence and to make emergency stops without crushing your car’s nose.

6. Don’t skate, bicycle, etc. near bus stops

The more wheels it has, the more difficult it will be to stop it on a dime when necessary.  Since bus stops are, sure enough, fraught with moving buses, there will be many probable opportunities for disaster there (especially if you lose control and make contact with the front end of a bus).  While waiting for a bus, it is best to have your feet firmly on the ground.

7. Don’t approach a bus until it stops—NEVER run beside it

Even without wheels, school bus accidents are a possibility when the bus is not given a wide berth:  after all, people have been known to lose control of their feet.  The last place you want to trip and fall is right next to a moving school bus.  Don’t sacrifice your life or its quality for a few seconds of your time.

8. If you drop something near a bus, notify the driver before retrieving it

The same goes for passengers using the bike rack:  whenever you approach even a stopped bus from a non-boarding angle, it is best to let the driver know so that they don’t back over you or bump into you while you are out of their line of sight.

While the prevention of school bus accidents is largely a matter of acting responsibly and in consideration of the driver’s challenges, other factors such as vehicle maintenance, driver distraction, etc. may come into play even when you have made a reasonable effort to keep safe.  However, proving this can be a matter of some difficulty when you are seeking compensation to speed recovery from a school bus accident.  If you or someone you love has been hurt in, on, or around a bus without flirting with danger, Utah personal injury attorneys Christensen & Hymas can equip you with helpful guidance or even legal representation when push comes to shove.  For more information on whether a personal injury attorney is right for you, call (801) 506-0800.

Image courtesy of Alex Starr

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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