Bus Accident with no seat belts
School Buses Without Seat Belts Accidents
Two recent school bus accidents have brought to light the fact that very
few school buses that are in daily use around the country are equipped
with the most basic of all safety devices: seat belts.
The first accident attracted little attention outside the State of Texas
but serves as an example of school bus accidents that can occur during
According to investigators, a tractor-trailer rig was traveling east on
Interstate 20 when the driver forced to brake suddenly in an attempt to
avoid a rear end collision with another vehicle. The 18-wheeler skidded
on the wet highway before crossing the median and colliding with a small
school bus. One passenger in the bus was killed and seven more were injured.
According to witnesses at the scene, the bus was not equipped with seat belts.
School buses transport about 1.5 million students each day in Texas. According
to the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) 2014-15 bus accident report,
there were 2,416 bus accidents. What constitutes an “accident”
was not defined in the report.
In 2007 the Texas legislature approved a law requiring buses that were
purchased before September 1, 2010 to be equipped with three-point seat
belts, the same seat belts found in cars and trucks. The 2009 Legislature
approved $10 million for seat belt installation, but the appropriation
disappeared into other school funding after few school districts expressed
interest in the program. Because the 2007 law did not provide direct funding
for seat belts on buses, but only for reimbursement of local district
funds, the program was essentially ignored.
It can be understood that cash-strapped school districts are reluctant
to spend their own money on a project such as seat belts and then have
to wait months for reimbursement. What is difficult to understand is why
a school district would want to gamble that an accident won’t happen.
The positions of the TEA and the local districts may make good financial
sense but, at the same time, will it make good financial sense when a
district is facing a wrongful death claim for the death of a student in
a bus accident and has to explain that seat belts were not practical due to cost?
The Texas bus accident occurred less than 2 weeks after a Chattanooga,
Tennessee school bus accident that killed 6 elementary school-aged students.
On the afternoon of November 21, 2016 a school bus owned by Durham School
Services left the road in a Chattanooga suburb. The bus, which may have
been speeding, rolled onto its side before slamming into a tree. Five
children were dead at the scene of the accident and a sixth child died
the following day.
According to police reports and published newspaper accounts the driver
of the bus, Johnthony Walker, had left the regular route the bus should
have been traveling. At the time of the accident, the bus was on a narrow
two-lane residential street that contains several sharp turns. Walker’s
bus was apparently traveling over the posted speed limit at the time of
the crash and police reports indicate that drugs or alcohol were not a
factor in the accident.
As a result of early investigations, Walker has been charged with 6 counts
of vehicular homicide.
Walker, who had been driving for Durham School Services for less than 6
months, was reported by some parents as having a record of complaints
about his driving habits. According to investigators, there have been
no independent confirmations of these reports.
Durham School Services is a subsidiary of National Express LLC which, in
turn, is the North American subsidiary of Great Britain’s National
Express Group PLC. Durham claims to transport over 1 million students
per day in the United States.
As in the Texas accident, the Chattanooga school bus was not equipped with
seat belts or any other restraint devices.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press newspaper, three lawsuits
have been filed against Durham School Services.
In the wake of the Chattanooga accident Durham School Services CEO David
Duke has announced that his company is instituting a multi-million dollar,
fleet-wide, series of safety improvements that will be in place by the
end of 2017. These safety improvements will include a cloud computing-based
nationwide reporting system that will allow fast responses to parental
and school administration safety concerns as well as the installation
of “smart cameras” that will record both the driver and road
conditions when on-board sensors detect a sudden change in speed or other
Despite the death tolls there have been only a handful of parents, school
officials, and state lawmakers who have come forward with demands that
seat belts or other such restraining devices become mandatory equipment
on all new school bus purchases and that the devices be added as a retrofit
to buses that are already in service.