Bus crashes and accidents involving large buses — either commercial buses or motorcoaches as well as school buses — can cost lives as well as serious injuries both to the bus driver and her (his) vulnerable passengers. Buses in Indiana and Illinois, under present federal and state laws, are not required to have any kind of seat belt or other safety protections in place for passengers as they ride on the bus.
As discussed in our prior post, new legislation will be changing that fact for commercial buses in Indiana and Illinois in the future. Safety belts will be required on commercial buses and motorcoaches in the future in accordance with a new federal mandate.
School Buses vs. Commercial Buses and Motorcoaches
However, school buses are treated differently under the law. Will our school-aged children be protected with safety belts while commuting to or from school in the future, or while they are being transported to a school-related activity (like a sporting event)? And, is this really a concern or are school buses safe enough already?
Here’s the real issue for many bus riders and for parents who place their children on a school bus each morning: aren’t you safer riding in a bus than you are in a car? Ask most people, and they’ll say yes — buses are safer.
Maybe not. Research studies have shown that riding on a bus is not any less dangerous than riding in a car. From the Journal of Safety Research: “ … the number of bus accidents per million passenger miles (3.04) is comparable to the number of car accidents per million driven miles (3.21).”
Still, there is an assumption among many people that buses, maybe because they are big and cumbersome, are inherently safer than other kinds of vehicles on the road. That’s a dangerous assumption to make for Hoosiers and those living in Illinois — especially with the kinds of road hazards and weather conditions that many bus drivers have to face in our part of the country.
Bus Accidents in Indiana and Illinois
Consider the following bus accident examples from our part of the country, where a bus crash hurt people (if not also causing a fatal injury). Four of these examples are of local bus crashes that have happened in the past three months.
1. 2003 Springfield Fatal School Bus Crash
Many will still remember the tragic school bus accident that happened on a rural roadway just north of Vandalia back in 2003. It was a horrific school bus accident. There, the school bus was going along its usual route, picking up kids for their school day, when the school bus veered off Burg Road and rolled down the hillside ravine. The bus plummeted down, coming to rest over 15 feet below the roadway, tipped over on its side.
The 70 year old bus driver was seriously hurt; two of the children had to be pried out of the bus wreckage using the Jaws of Life before they could be airlifted to the nearest hospital. Thirteen other children (students ranging from kindergarten to high school) were also hurt and had to be treated at the local hospital.
2. 2015 Chicago CTA Bus Crash Kills Pedestrian
Last year in Chicago, a metro bus crashed into oncoming traffic after the CTA bus driver drove his empty bus into a busy intersection. The CTA driver had first come to a stop at the red light located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lake Street, then hit the gas, driving into traffic and jumping the curb. Seven pedestrians were seriously hurt, as was the bus driver. One woman was killed in the bus accident.
3. 2016 School Bus Accident Kills Indiana Elementary School Principal
In January 2016, Beverland Elementary School Principal Susan Jordan was struck and killed by a school bus as it was pulling away from the school loading zone to begin its route of returning the children to their homes. The school bus, fully loaded with kids, sped up and jumped the curb. It hit two children before striking Ms. Jordan, who had moved into the path of the school bus and was attempting to move children out of danger when she herself was hit by the rogue bus.
4. 2016 Illinois School Bus is Rear-Ended by Semi Truck
In January 2016, a school bus accident in Illinois happened in Beach Park, Illinois, after a big rig semi truck rear-ended the school bus on Green Bay Road with such force that it pushed the bus into another semi truck sitting in front of the school bus. The school bus was carrying a bus load of 52 children home from their elementary school when the accident happened. Luckily, even though the school bus was sandwiched between the two semis, no one died; however, nine kids did have to be hospitalized because of injuries sustained in the crash.
5. 2016 Illinois School Bus Rollover Accident
In January 2016, a similar school bus crash occurred in Grayslake, Illinois, when a car hit a school bus on Rollins Road, sending the bus out of control and tipping until it rolled over before coming to a stop. Amazingly, the school bus driver and another adult on the bus were not seriously injured; there were no children on the bus at the time of this bus crash.
6. 2016 Griffin School Bus Accident as Bus Hit by Car on I-65
This month, March 2016, another bus crash happened in Indiana as a school bus was transporting 27 student athletes to a basketball game. The school bus crashed on I-65 after being hit by a car, which caused the bus to veer into a ditch alongside the interstate roadway and to overturn.
Thankfully, while some of the passengers were injured, no one died in the bus accident although several of the students suffered crash injuries and had to be hospitalized. Additionally, their coach was seriously hurt and was airlifted to the University of Chicago Hospital.
Bus Accidents and School Bus Crashes Are Serious Risk to Bus Riders in Indiana or Illinois
The reality is that bus accidents do happen in Indiana and Illinois a lot more than many people may realize. And all too often, the victims of these bus accidents are children who are riding a school bus which their parents and loved ones assume to be a very safe mode of transportation.
That trust in buses — especially school buses — as being extremely safe for travel is misplaced. Buses are not any safer than cars, according to transportation studies.
Additionally, the regulation of buses is not the same as it is for other vehicles, and the safety standards for commercial buses and motorcoaches are not the same as those for our school buses. All too often, bus crashes are happening where people are hurt or even killed because of the negligence or neglect of others. Let’s all be careful out there!