Each day in the United States, approximately 26 million elementary and secondary school children ride buses to school. On average, there are between 8,000 and 12,000 school bus related injuries annually. Although the vast majority of these accidents are minor, each year students suffer serious injury and even death in the course of being transported to school.
Each day every school age parent relinquishes the safety and control of their child to the school district, and in the case of those children riding busses, to the school bus driver. They trust that the driver of the school bus will act as though they were transporting their own child.
In Frugis v. Braciagliano, 177 N.J. 250, 268 (2003), the Court commented on the responsibility imposed upon a school for the care of its students:
The law imposes a duty on children to attend school and on parents to relinquish their supervisory role over their children to teachers and administrators during school hours. While their children are educated during the day, parents transfer to school officials the power to act as guardians of those young wards. No greater obligation is placed on school officials than to protect the children in their charge from foreseeable dangers, whether those dangers arise from the careless acts or intentional transgressions of others. Although the overarching mission of a board of education is to educate, its first imperative must be to do no harm to the children in its care.
Unfortunately, school districts don’t always devote the time and attention to student transportation that it requires. Form the planning of the bus route, the bus stops to driver training and bus maintenance, they often times come up short. While there are State administrative regulations that impose training and education to both drivers and the students they transport. Many of the people charged with these responsibilities are unfamiliar with not only state regulations but also basic principles of student transportation safety.
What is even more alarming is that despite the wealth of information readily available to anyone with access to a computer, many districts are deficient in their training, education and knowledge. A simple Google search will provide a wealth of information regarding the safest way to transport a student.
Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website to receive packets of informative materials, absolutely free. These safety principles are well known and have been well documented for many years. Despite this, many districts are lacking in their knowledge of how to safely transport a student to and from school. Unfortunately each year there is a loss of life because of this neglect.
As parents we need to put pressure on our districts to not only comply with state regulations, but to go further and make sure that every bus driver and child has the training and education to get to and from school safely.
For further information regarding school bus safety feel free to contact me, or read more about one of my previous cases concering school bus accidents online here.
Joel Rosenberg is a Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Accident & Personal Injury Group. For questions, or additional information, please contact Mr. Rosenberg.