Tragic School Bus Accident Case Spotlights Safety Issues

On a typical Fall afternoon in 2015, a 5-year-old boy was crossing the front of a school bus with his siblings when his backpack became caught. The backpack’s contents spilled onto the ground, and he bent over to gather his items. Unfortunately, a blind spot in front of the bus prevented the driver from seeing him. 

The child’s mother watched in horror as the more than 20,000-pound bus started forward and ran over her child, crushing him. 

Over 20 million students will ride a school bus on any given day. As parents, we may assume that riding a school bus is the safest option for our children, but this is not always true. 

In 2021, school bus-related crashes killed 108 people nationwide, including occupants of other vehicles, bus passengers, drivers, and pedestrians. Pedestrians involved in school bus crashes have a higher rate of fatality. Sadly, most school-age pedestrians killed are between 5 and 10 years old. 

Since the late 1980s, student detection systems have been available to manufacturers of school buses. These detection systems help eliminate the blind spot on the front of buses. Despite the availability, no bus manufacturer had installed the system in the 2002 bus involved in the 5-year-old’s death.

The overwhelming majority of school buses today do not have this safety device. 

Our lawyers and one of our in-house investigators traveled to New Jersey, where a law to protect pedestrians following the tragic death of another child. While there, they tested a bus with the Rostra SDS System (Student Detection System). They proved that the system works well and that the cross-view mirrors are unreliable and hazardous.

In Alabama, a School Bus Specifications Committee sets the minimum specifications manufacturers must meet to sell their buses to school districts. However, school bus manufacturers can always exceed the minimum specs. In 2017 when Beasley Allen worked this case up for trial, student detection sensors were not required under the minimum specs, and no school bus manufacturer had ever asked that these systems be added for bus safety.

Fortunately, the 2024 school bus specifications approve of manufacturers incorporating several technologies to improve school bus safety, such as collision avoidance and mitigation systems; exterior cameras; student tracking systems; and pedestrian detection systems.

Beasley Allen’s Greg Allen, Stephanie Monplaisir, and Darron Hendley from the Hendley Law Firm represented the family in this case.

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