Every big city in the United States has its share of public and private buses on its roads, and sometimes it seems as though there are more of them than other vehicles around. Large buses can also found on major highways, rural roads, and other major and minor thoroughfares. Even though there are count-less safety regulations that guide how bus companies and their drivers operate, bus accidents still occur. Their large size and numbers of passengers on these vehicles mean that when accidents happen, the injuries and fatalities can be quite high. Another risk factor with buses is that they are not always required to have seat belts. Even when they do, enforcing their use may be beyond the bus driver’s control.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that on average, school buses account for 40 percent of yearly bus accidents, followed by transit buses at 35 percent and intercity buses at 12 percent. In general, less than 100 of these accidents involve fatalities, but this is still an important safety concern for bus drivers, passengers, and others who share the roads these buses use to travel.
Causes of Bus Accidents
Public transportation buses experience a good deal of wear and tear, with a lot of stops and starts. Extensive mileage, poor road conditions, and oftentimes lax maintenance can also contribute to mechanical and other problems that can cause a bus to break down or get into an accident. Companies that do not routinely service and maintain their buses can indirectly contribute to bus accidents. Other buses are manufactured or serviced with defective equipment and parts, which can also lead to serious problems.
Bus drivers are another main factor in bus accidents. Just like other drivers, they can become distracted, aggressive, or reckless. These vehicles have large blind spots, and if a driver is not paying attention at an intersection, it can lead to a bus-car, bus-motorcycle, bus-bicycle, or bus-pedestrian accident. Many drivers do not follow safety guidelines and drive recklessly and even abuse substances when behind the wheel. They can sometimes be seen passing other vehicles illegally, tailgating, speeding, and taking turns too fast. Other driver errors include failing to brake in time to avoid accidents, failing to yield, and forgetting to check blind spots before changing lanes.
However, there are factors that contribute to bus accidents that are beyond a driver’s control. Poor weather conditions can make roads slippery and make it difficult to see. Deep potholes, heavy traffic, and malfunctioning traffic signals may also be to blame for a bus accident. On top of all this, bus drivers have to deal with other drivers who may be inexperienced, aggravated about heavy traffic, reckless, or driving impaired. Many buses have been run off roads by these kinds of drivers. Bicyclists and pedestrians who are not being careful can unintentionally cross an approaching bus’s path as well.
School buses stop and start constantly on their routes, and generally travel at slower speeds than transit and private buses. They have flashing lights to alert other drivers of their stops and starts, but other drivers may not adhere to the laws. In Pennsylvania, the School Bus Stopping Law specifies that vehicles should stop 10 or more feet away from school buses that have stop arms extended and red lights flashing.
Once those lights start flashing, motorists must slow down and stop, whether they are in back of, across from, or next to the bus. However, if there is a physical barrier such as a median separating the oncoming traffic, cars in opposing lanes are not required to stop. Once the children have disembarked, motorists must wait until the youngsters have reached the sidewalk or another safe location before proceeding.
Only eight states require school buses to have seat belts, and Pennsylvania is not on that list. It is up to the bus drivers, school bus companies, passengers, parents, and other motorists to help prevent school bus accidents. It is against the law in the state for children to be standing when school buses are moving, and pedestrians should know that they should never walk behind a stopped bus. Other safety measures include daily bus inspections before the children board, not distracting the bus driver, and arriving at the bus stop five minutes before it is scheduled to arrive.
SEPTA Bus Accidents
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates public transportation buses, electric trolleybuses, commuter rail, light rail, and rapid transit in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery. SEPTA was formed in 1963, and like any other major transit service, it has had its share of accidents.
A report from a local Philadelphia television station revealed that SEPTA has had well over 10,000 transit accidents, and they shared some concerning statistics from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as well. According to the FTA, SEPTA averages about one bus accident for each 100,000 miles driven. They compared this to the Chicago Transit Authority, which experiences one accident for every 2.4 million miles; and METRO of Houston, with one accident for every 1.2 million miles driven.
A SEPTA representative claimed that the city’s old streets, many of which are in need of repair, could have contributed to those high numbers. Another source asserted that since Pennsylvania has a damage cap of around $250,000 per victim, SEPTA has been able to operate somewhat recklessly without having to face a lot of consequences. However, the company has been known to fire drivers for chargeable accidents and accidents involving pedestrians in the past.
Liability in Bus Accidents
When bus accidents are a direct result of reckless driving, distracted driving, careless driving, or impaired driving, the fault may be traced to the driver. Establishing liability in bus accidents can be complicated, especially when there are several vehicles or even cyclists or pedestrians involved. Therefore, even if it seems as if the driver is the only one at fault, the truth could be more complicated.
Bus companies are regulated and have special insurance to cover accidents. If an accident was caused by a mechanical failure, the company’s insurance provider may be able to cover the victims’ expenses. There are cases in which third parties are also held liable for bus accidents. One example of this could be if a bridge collapsed while a bus was being driven over it.
School and public transit buses are operated by government agencies in most cases, so suing them can involve a great deal of red tape. Charter and other kinds of long-distance buses are regulated by the FMCSA. When serious bus accidents occur on these routes, injured parties can file claims against those bus companies. Again, proving negligence can be a complex process, and there may be several parties that may be at fault for the accident.
Bus accidents can lead to severe, long-term or life-threatening injuries, and fatalities. Victims can need surgeries, medical procedures, and extended recoveries, not to mention physical therapy, medications, and even prosthetics. When this is combined with an inability to return to work temporarily or permanently, a person’s quality of life can be significantly affected. This can then lead to prolonged emotional distress and pain and suffering. Although there may be insurance to pay for a good portion of these costs, it may be nowhere near enough.
Northeast Philadelphia Bus Accident Lawyers at Wiggins Law Help Victims of Bus Accidents Recover
A serious bus accident can leave passengers fighting for their lives. If you were involved in a bus accident, contact the caring, confident Northeast Philadelphia bus accident lawyers at Wiggins Law. Our team will fight for you so that you receive the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us at 267-225-0770 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we proudly serve clients in Northeast Philadelphia, including Kensington, Tacony, Torresdale, Mayfair, Port Richmond, Allegheny, and Olney