Many of you have kids riding school buses and a crash of one of the behemoths Monday in Los Angeles involved a fatality and raised many of the important issues facing communities with the big yellow buses and how to keep them — and the kids inside — as safe as possible.
Apparently a 17-year-old boy was driving a BMW when he hit and killed an elderly man walking in the crosswalk. He then swerved, ramming the school bus, which toppled onto its side. The teen and his passengers fled the scene but were apprehended a short time later. Twenty students suffered minor injuries.
Here are just some of the issues which came to mind immediately after hearing about the crash, and this first one should be raised by all parents, at the least:
1) The crash took place at one of L.A.’s busiest, most legendary intersections, First and Soto streets. Given our recent discussion here of the admitted failure by the city of Los Angeles of their red light cameras to either slow accidents or even raise money at equipped intersections, we should all ask: Were there cameras at this intersection? They could offer a non-debatable record of the wreck itself, which could include the BMW running the red light, hitting and killing the pedestrian and then flipping the bus. Or was the placement of red light cameras in this neighborhood decided on a political, not statistical basis, as the LAPD and L.A. City Council has already admitted? Seems to me all the parties involved should get inundated with questions like these.
2) Were there seat belts on the bus?
3) Why are school bus seat belts not mandated by the government in every state?
4) How can a 3-series BMW, the second-smallest sold in the U.S., flip over a much more massive school bus?
5) What are the roof crash and crush standards, rollover standards and other exterior wreck standards mandated for school buses and how can we compare them to standards for, say, SUVs and other full-size SUVs and/or large crossovers? And are these standards available in plain English, not government legalese?
There are many other questions I’m certain you can easily come up with and comments you’d like to make; please share them here and with your local school districts. Perhaps we can start a national movement, or at least a local dialogue about school bus safety.
Did you know there are school bus seat belts mandated by law in very few parts of the country, and those are always local rules?
To find out why, in a 2006 study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided to not order them nationally go to www.nhtsa.org and search for “seat belt on school buses.” It’s information you may find very surprising and definitely interesting.
Then there’s another report, coincidentally released this week, from the Washington Post as reported by the Associated Press: “School buses are safe enough without seat belts and students in many cases ignore a requirement to wear them, according to a study in Alabama released Monday that found the straps would save the life of about one child every eight years.”
Millions of kids ride them every day and their parents (and most other people simply on the road) worry about the drivers, the buses themselves and of course, the safety of the students on-board. Yet we still see drivers blatantly passing school buses parked in the middle of the street, its red lights flashing, off- or on-loading students. Even the simple message about stopping when the bus’ red lights are flashing has not gotten through.
In the world of transportation, protecting these kids should be among our top priorities. Even if the number of injuries and deaths is quite small, we should investigate to see if the buses could be made even safer. We all scream about what’s going on in the classrooms around our country, and rightly so, but what about how the kids get to and from school as they ride these buses?
That’s what’s important. Right?
Steve Parker is a two-time Emmy Award-winner who has covered the world’s auto industry and motor racing for over 35 years. Contact Steve through his own automotive issues website at www.SteveParkerMotoring.com.