Fall is upon us and school is starting again for most Alabama students. We all hope for a fun, productive, and safe year for the kids, and this all starts with their ability to travel safely to and from school. The school districts in Alabama operate more than 7,000 buses that travel approximately 150 million miles each year. With the kids going back to school, this is a good time to focus on school bus safety and what we can all do to avoid accidents with school buses.
Though school bus accidents are not as common as other types of motor vehicle accidents, they can result in some of the most catastrophic injuries. Buses are large vehicles that are usually transporting several children inside. When one of them crashes, kids inside can suffer serious harm. While it is impossible to prevent all accidents, it is important that we do our part to keep the streets safe for our school kids.
Here are five things we can do to avoid accidents with school buses:
- Watch for Kids Walking and Biking to School
School safety awareness starts from the moment we back out of our driveway in the morning. While many kids take the bus to school, some walk or ride their bikes. As you begin your morning commute, watch out for children that are walking or biking to school or walking to the bus stop.
- Be Mindful of Kids When Approaching Bus Stops
Children are not only vulnerable to being injured when they are inside a school bus, they are also at risk when they are walking to the bus stop or waiting for the bus. We all know that children can be unpredictable, especially younger kids. Many times, you see them darting across the street and running furiously to catch the bus with little awareness of nearby vehicles and other dangers. It is up to us to be aware of these potential hazards as we approach bus stops.
- Slow Down when you are Behind a Bus
For most of us, it is not our favorite thing to get stuck behind a school bus, especially when we are late for work or in a hurry to be on time for an important obligation. Though we might not enjoy it, the best approach when driving behind a bus is to accept the fact that you will need to drive slower for a while, similarly to when you hit a traffic jam.
- Give the Bus Plenty of Room
Buses tend to drive much slower than other vehicles, and they also make frequent stops to drop off and pick up children. Buses are also required to come to a complete stop at all railroad crossings. One of the most important ways to avoid an accident with a school bus is to give the bus plenty of space when you are traveling behind it. To ensure that everyone remains safe, it is best to stay at least 10 feet behind buses at all times.
- Never Pass a Bus Illegally
In most cases, motorists are not allowed to pass a school or church bus in Alabama. In addition, motorists who are driving behind a school bus are required to stop when the signal arm comes up and remain stopped until the signal arm is lowered. You are also required to stop when the signal arm is up when you are approaching the bus from the opposite direction, unless you are driving on a divided highway with four or six lanes and there is a barrier or unpaved area between the directional lanes.
Illegally passing a school bus is not only unsafe, it can also result in hundreds of dollars in fines (even for a first offense) and points on your driving record that can lead to a license suspension and higher insurance rates. A new Alabama law that went into effect in 2016 also gives school districts the option to install stop-arm cameras on their school buses. In buses where the camera is installed, motorists can receive a $300 ticket if they are caught on video passing a bus illegally.
What to Do if You are Involved in a School Bus Accident
Even if you do everything right and take all the safety precautions, it is still possible to end up in an accident with a school bus. This can happen because of negligence or carelessness on the part of the bus driver, mechanical failures, vehicle part defects, poor driving conditions, and many other factors. If this occurs and you are seriously injured, you need skilled legal counsel in your corner to ensure that your rights and interests are protected.
At M. Adam Jones and Associates, we have extensive experience with even the most complex accident injury cases, including those involving school buses, 18-wheeler trucks, and other commercial vehicles. We are strong advocates for our clients, and we fight hard to obtain maximum compensation and to ensure that responsible parties are held fully accountable.
For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact our office today at 334-699-5599.