By on August 2, 2007

navistar.jpgPassenger vehicles' passive safety has improved dramatically over the last four decades. Yet millions of children continue to ride to and from school in buses little changed from those used when the Who wrote "Magic Bus." The family of a boy injured in a Kentucky bus crash may finally change that. Lawyers representing Cody Shively, a 12-year old boy who suffered brain and eye injuries in a bus accident, are suing the vehicles' manufacturers (Navistar International Corporation, Navistar International Transportation Corporation, International Truck and Engine Corporation and IC Corporation) and the Grant County School Board. Lawyer Stanley Chesley has a not-so-secret weapon: on-board video of the children during the crash. And he's not afraid to use it. Citing The American School Bus' Council's website's assertion that Yellow buses are inherently safe [since modified], Chesley unleashed the dogs of war: "Anyone who would make such absurd statements should be forced to watch those children flying around that bus during the accident. One moment they were just sitting in their seats, the next they were being thrown back and forth like trees in a hurricane and the bus was crushing like a sardine can."

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32 Comments on “Yellow School Bus = Death trap?...”


  • avatar
    Glenn 126

    Even back when I rode a school bus in the 1970’s I thought seat belts should be required.

    Kids are smarter than you think. At least, let me rephrase that. The smart (read: educated and willing to be educated) kids are smart enough to put seat belts on.

    We’ve required seat belts in the US on cars since January 1, 1965. They still are not required on school busses 42 3/4 years later?!

    The solution is quite obvious…

  • avatar
    nonce

    Being in a school bus is drastically safer than almost any other vehicle when in a crash.

    If a school bus is hit with something strong enough to “crush it like a sardine can” you’re already in a bad situation.

    Of course, none of this will stop an attorney who can play a video of children being killed to a jury, who will punish whoever they can as a result.

  • avatar
    kasumi

    Amen.

    Ever since watching a movie about how to ride a school bus in 3rd grade I have been terrified of school buses. Luckily, I was able to walk to school, but field trips were another story.

    How are school buses “inherently safe”? Is it that they are big and yellow? Why are seat belts not required? No air bags or even soft touch surfaces? Aren’t school buses too high as well? What do they use in Europe for moving kids around?

    K.

  • avatar
    kasumi

    Nonce-
    How is being in a school bus safer than almost any vehicle? If I roll over in my car, I have air bags and a seat belt. Even if I just get rear ended, I have a seat belt and a soft steering wheel to keep most of my teeth in my mouth. In a school bus wouldn’t I hit the metal bar in front of me or the person sitting next to me?

    K.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    I’ll admit, school buses could probably be made safer, but if you read the article:

    The driver, Angelynna Young, had cocaine, marijuana and tranquilizers in her system at the time. She is serving a 22 year prison sentence for the crash.

    Maybe the bus driver’s employer would be a better target – regular drug testing may have prevented this.

  • avatar
    nonce

    If a school bus gets rear-ended, it might not even notice because of its mass. And if a school bus is hit with enough force to throw kids around, that’s enough force to destroy a car, regardless of airbags.

    And lots of school buses have steel in them. From a safety POV, I’d be more worried about the bus’s ability to wreck other vehicles on the road.

    BTW, I wouldn’t say anything like “school buses are inherently safe,” because “safe” is hard to define. Safer, on the other hand…

  • avatar
    LoserBoy

    kasumi:

    I believe nonce’s statement is probably based on statistics. That is, fewer injuries are reported on school buses than autos on a per child, per mile basis. It’s the same reasoning used to declare flying safer than driving (also on a per passenger, per mile basis): “Yes, any accidents that happen are horrific, but accidents almost never happen.”

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    It’s still a matter of mass. In low-speed accidents, the ones that are most common, the kids are fine (same as people in city buses, or charter buses… how much public transportation have *you* seen where there are seat belts involved?). Seat-backs are padded now, or at least since a certain year… though there are older buses in service that may not be padded. In high speed accidents, the buses still structurally hold up better than any car or truck. And in absolutely catastrophic accidents (like the school bus from Seward that plunged off a bridge in Omaha), yes, people get injured and die. But were a car to do the same thing that school bus did, everyone would have been killed, not four out of 31, seat belts be damned. Would seat belts have helped? Possibly. But when it boils down to it, such accidents are so infrequent that manufacturers don’t believe it worth the expense to retrofit every school bus with seat belts. And if you do that, why not do it for every bus in the country? Or are kids the only ones worth extra safety precautions?

  • avatar
    postjosh

    don’t know what’s up with the rest of the country but here in new york we’ve required seat belts on all new school buses since ’87. i mean what does it cost?

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    Megan Benoit:
    ASeat-backs are padded now, or at least since a certain year… though there are older buses in service that may not be padded.

    Most school districts have to replace their buses every few years due to state laws, so older buses while perhaps in service with churches etc are rarely found in most school districts.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I could only imagine trying to get kids who are buckled in a loaded bus out in the event of an emergency.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    My senior design project in mechanical engineering was to design “a safer, more user friendly, sustainable school bus”. We ended up focusing mainly on safety.

    I don’t remember the statistics offhand, but the fatality rate was very, very low and the injury rate was fairly low as well.

    I’ll try to pull the report when I get home tonight…

  • avatar
    nonce

    such accidents are so infrequent that manufacturers don’t believe it worth the expense to retrofit every school bus with seat belts.

    Won’t SOMEBODY please think about the CHILDREN??!!?!1one

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    Jordan Tenebaum:

    Maybe it’s because I was riding a school bus myself only 6 years ago (senior year of high school) but I assume it would take the average school-aged kid about .5 seconds to take their seatbelt off. Even a kid in kindergarten has enough presence of mind to take their own seatbelt off in the event of an emergency (assuming they are not seriously injured and physically unable to do it, but if that were the case the seatbelt would probably do more good than harm anyway).

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    Okay, I couldn’t wait. Here is the link to the report I referenced:

    http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-11/SchoolBus/SBReportFINAL.pdf

    The useful information starts in section 2.0 on page 3.

    Over an eleven year span, the average number of deaths was 10.2 per year for all school bus usage including non-school related transportation. Of those, 2.6 were drivers and 7.5 were passengers. Twenty percent of those fatalities were in van based buses.

    So, six passengers per year are killed in full sized school buses involved in accidents.

    These are nationwide statistics.

    Also, a test from Canada showed increased head injuries in frontal collisions where seat belts were used on buses.

  • avatar
    labrat

    “Would seat belts have helped? Possibly. But when it boils down to it, such accidents are so infrequent that manufacturers don’t believe it worth the expense to retrofit every school bus with seat belts.”

    That’s exactly the arguement that the trial lawyer will use to extract hundreds of millions of dollars from the manufacturer. The jury will be told ‘If deep pockets corporation chose to spend only $10 (or whatever) for a seatbelt where this boy was sitting, then he would not have a lifetime of pain and agony.’ The jury will feel bad and buy it, and the manufacturer will have to cough it up.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    The vehicles on the collapsed I35 bridge included a school bus. After an approximately 60 foot fall, all 60 kids and the driver survived, but 6 kids are hospitalized.
    Re: Shively accident. From the link, the driver had most of the popular illegal drugs in her bloodstream. She is serving a 22 year prison term. Bigger fools overcome better precautions. Better screening can overcome bigger fools.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    thetopdog:

    That’s if all 72(I think)belts work properly after an accident.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I was in a schoolbus accident once. It was a snowy, icy day and my school was on the bottom of a steep hill. All the bus drivers had instructions that, in bad conditions, they should take a longer route to the bottom of the hill, but our driver of course decides to take the hill. Well the mass of the bus overcame the traction of the tires and we just slid at about 20mph down the hill. I remember everyone screaming. We slammed into a parked car which got crumpled like an accordian. Nobody was hurt, and the bus was completely unscathed. Still I think that seat belts sure wouldn’t hurt. That, at least, should be required.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    That’s exactly the arguement that the trial lawyer will use to extract hundreds of millions of dollars from the manufacturer. The jury will be told ‘If deep pockets corporation chose to spend only $10 (or whatever) for a seatbelt where this boy was sitting, then he would not have a lifetime of pain and agony.’ The jury will feel bad and buy it, and the manufacturer will have to cough it up.

    Haven’t you ever seen Fight Club? If (cost of recall) < (cost of settling out of court) Then (Recall). School bus accidents that result in fatalities and thus lawsuits are so rare that for school systems (and even manufacturers) it’s cheaper to just pay for the lawsuits (after all, that’s what insurance is for) than to put seat belts in every school bus.

    Every kid in that school bus that was on I35W yesterday walked out of the bus. I don’t believe any are even still hospitalized. That’s pretty frickin’ amazing.

  • avatar
    radimus

    It’s more than just seatbelts.

    I don’t know if this has changed or not, but in my school bus riding years the drivers were required to put three students per seat. That’s all fine and dandy when it’s little elementary school kids, but much beyond that it just doesn’t work. The third guy on the end only has room for one buttcheek. So, not only were their no seatbelts the bus was also overcrowded so the school district did not have to buy as many.

    Personally, I don’t buy the arguement that seatbelts on school buses are unnecessary or cause more injury. That’s the same BS argument made when the government forced passenger car manufacturers to install them, and one of many BS arguments made by people who refuse to wear them. If the current seat backs are too hard and cause head injurys they can be made softer.

    Get into a Greyhound or any other tour or charter bus and you’ll find seatbelts. Apparently they figured out it’s a good idea to have them there. I normally loathe ambulance chasing lawyers, but this is one case where I hope some change happens.

  • avatar
    N85523

    I’d like to know how many school children die riding or driving to and from school in passenger cars.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    Get into a Greyhound or any other tour or charter bus and you’ll find seatbelts.

    When did they start putting seat belts in Greyhounds and the like? I was unaware of this. Of course, it has been nearly two years since I was on one last.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    This is a very interesting topic…

    I’m very much in favor of mandatory seat belts because if you get kids in the habit of using them earlier on, they will be more inclined to use them once they have their own transportation.

    If a kid doesn’t want to put on a seatbelt, let them walk. Overall, there really is no credible reason why a seat belt shouldn’t be provided in any motorized vehicle. I travel abpout 45,000 miles a year and wouldn’t go 50 feet without having a seat belt.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    No expert in the matter, but looking at the school buses and the people that generally drive them I would be a lot more concerned about the latter.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Seat Belts and armed guard to make sure that the little @$*&^%& use them. Because if there are seat belts some wise acre is going to not use it because he is oppositional and a jerk. Once one kid doesn’t, none of the “cool kids” will, and then hell is out for breakfast.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    I’m very much in favor of mandatory seat belts because if you get kids in the habit of using them earlier on, they will be more inclined to use them once they have their own transportation.

    In school buses, though? My parents enforced mandatory seat belt usage on me and my sister, and we built our habit from there… by the time the kids are in school, it’s too late to teach them to wear a seat belt, and it’s not the school’s job anyway. The kids learn from their parents. If their parents aren’t wearing seat belts, then the kids won’t.

    I still have to deal with my in-laws refusing to buckle up when we go somewhere… apparently, the laws of physics no longer apply when you’re in the backseat. And personally, I’d rather not have my 300 lb. MIL catapulted from the backseat into my chair, thankyouverymuch. And my FIL, he’ll unbuckle after he buckles up! Hubby says he was always made to buckle up as a kid, even if his parents didn’t. Go figure. Personally, I can’t even move my car from the driveway to the street without putting my seatbelt on. Just feels wrong somehow. But riding a school bus is an entirely different matter.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    With seatbelts in school buses it’s not just cheapness or cost. Lap belts, as used in school buses can cause abdominal injuries in a crash, especially when they are too loose. Consequently many school bus engineers and many states prefer the “capsule” concept which is why school buses now have seats with very high backs and lots of padding. The thinking is that the kids will bounce around a little and may sustain more minor injuries, but there is less risk of major injuries caused by misfitted seatbelts. If buses had 3 point inertia reel belts, 5 point racing harnesses, then mandatory seatbelts would make more sense. While Britain does not have school buses as we know them, minibuses and vans used for school transportation are now required to have forward facing seats with 3 point belts for every passenger.

  • avatar

    I recall the unpadded steel pipe that was the rear edge of the seat in front of me. Whenever the bus would decelerate, it seemed that my front teeth were headed right for that black pipe. I think most of us learned to rest at least one hand on the pipe in case of a sudden stop.

  • avatar
    kasumi

    Could this be a cost issue? There are only a few bus manufacturers and crash testing buses probably would be pretty expensive.

    However, the capsule issue wreaks of the non-seat belt wearing excuses as I have heard about not wanting to be trapped in a car. Yeah, thats my biggest concern, being thrown clear when my car hits a tree. With decently designed belt, wouldn’t that keep the kids in their seats so they weren’t a bunch of bingo balls?

    K.

  • avatar
    nichjs

    Robert Schwartz, nail on the head, mate, this is the reason that seat belts will never work in School busses.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    I am a parent of a 1st grader in NYC. I frequently attend class field trips with him and can attest to the fact that todays school buses are far safer then the one I rode to school in the 70s and 80s.

    Today’s school buses in NYC are all equiped with;
    -Padded high back seating for all passangers,
    -SEAT BELTS for all passangers,
    -Padding on all interior railings and metal handles.
    -All interior surfaces are rounded and smooth.
    -A total on nine emergency exits; two in roof, at least 4 windows, a kick out windshield, and two exit doors back and drivers side. Some even have a additonal emergency exit on the curb side.

    The newer models are even equiped with ABS and might even have traction control. All appear to have auto trannys. On top of all this there is now A/C on school buses, WTF!

    When I was in elementary school our buses had low back seats with no padding. There were no roof exits or seat belts. There were exposed screws on just about every surface. The only other door was at the back. Window frames and many other surfaces could cause all types of cuts and bruises.

    One of the most important safety features is the simple rule that no is allowed out of their seat while the bus is in motion. Very Effective!

    Seat belts usage on school buses is MANDATORY in NYC and believe it or not the children do use them!

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