In the last months of school in North Carolina, there were a few reports of different school bus accidents. Though dozens of car accidents happen in the state every single day, it is the unexpected ones, like those involving school buses, that garner the most attention. Though they are not very common, these kinds of accidents can be pretty deadly. After all, children are almost always the victim.
Though they are pretty rare, school bus accidents involving other cars can very often be avoided. All it takes is a good knowledge of the rules of the road and how to drive around school buses. Though it may be inconvenient, driving slowly and getting out of the way of buses could potential save the lives of the children being transported, as well as other drivers around you.
Nationwide Statistics You Need to Know
The latest figures from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration regarding school bus accidents are from 2003 to 2012. In that time, there were nearly 350,000 total fatal accidents on the road. Of those, about 1,200, or 0.35 percent, of those involved school buses — that’s about 120 a year. From those accidents, 1,353 were killed. Here’s how those numbers break down:
- 71 percent were in other vehicles involved, not the bus
- 21 percent of fatalities were pedestrians and other non-occupants
- Only 8 percent were on the bus
Most people killed —176 victims — were over 19 years of age. However, at least 160 of the victims were school-aged, whether they were on the bus or off of it. Not surprisingly, the majority of the accidents happened during school bus pickup and drop-off times: 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Yet, even with all of these statistics, traveling by bus is still one of the safest ways for children to get around. In fact, children and teens are 50 times more likely to get to school alive via bus than any other form of transportation.
Safety Isn’t the Only Benefit
While school buses are a great way to safely get students to class, there are additional ecological and financial benefits as well. According to the NHTSA, every school bus keeps about 36 cars off the road. That’s more than 17 million cars every single morning. With so many fewer cars traveling the road, over 2 billion gallons of fuel are saved annually. It also accounts for an annual savings of $6 billion. Finally, the national carbon footprint is reduced by nearly 45 billion pounds of carbon dioxide.
From a more relatable perspective, think of this: You may see four or five buses on your commute. That accounts to at least 160 cars not in your way. That reduction in traffic makes for an easier commute. It also means you can roll down your windows without worrying about nearly as much pollution. You are able to get home quicker in the afternoon (though it may not seem like it), and therefore spend more time with your kids. Really, buses are simply a win-win all around.
Doing Your Part to Ensure Safety
The only way buses can really be a safe way for students to get to and from school is if other drivers do their part. When you are traveling near one, you should treat it like a semi-truck. Give the bus plenty of space on all sides. It has many blind spots; if you can avoid driving beside one for extended periods of time, do so. Stay far behind it to account for any kind of sudden braking, especially if you are following it in a neighborhood.
North Carolina has specific laws regarding driving near school buses, similar to others around the nation. The most important laws are regarding when to stop. Whether you are on the same side of the road or traveling the opposite way, you must stop when a bus employs its stop sign. This goes for two-lane roads up to multiple-lane highways. The only exception is if there is a physical barrier between your side of the road and the bus, or you are on a highway at least four lanes wide with a turn lane in the middle.
The most important thing you can do if you are sharing the road with a school bus is to be patient. It will drive slower than you probably like, and will frequently make stops. Driving recklessly can lead to a terrible accident that can cost the lives of children, drivers and pedestrians. No amount of time you may save by zipping around buses is worth the value of human lives.