The beginning of August marks the start of back to school season, and with it, the use of school busses to transport your kids to and from school. If you are a parent of one of the more than two million children who use a school bus in Illinois, it is time for you to brush up on your school bus safety laws and learn what your rights are if your children are injured at the hands of a negligent driver.
School Bus Safety Laws
School bus drivers, who are trusted with the safety of your kids, must follow certain rules in order to ensure the safety of the children he or she is driving. The first safety law a school bus driver must follow, codified as 625 ILCS 5/11-1415, is that he or she shall only stop on the right side of the highway to load and discharge passengers. When stopping, the school bus driver must turn on the red flashing hazard lights and extend the arm on the left side of the vehicle that displays a stop sign. This is to signal to the other drivers that they must stop their vehicles because children will be unloading from the school bus.
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If the highway has four lanes of traffic or more, or if the highway allows for traffic to travel both ways, then the school bus may only discharge children whose residences are on the right side of the street or if the stop is at a crosswalk. The routes of the school buses are planned by the district in a way to prevent children from crossing a four lane highway.
If a school bus is set to travel across any railroad crossings, Illinois law requires that the bus driver pull over to the right and come to a complete stop between fifteen and fifty feet of the railroad. The bus driver is then required to display the flashing hazard lights, open their window, and look and listen for any incoming train. Once the school bus driver has ensured that the crossing will be safe, they will proceed across the tracks. This practice is taken so seriously that the law requires school bus drivers to stop before railroad crossings even if the bus is empty. This allows the practice to be ingrained in the driver’s driving habits. A driver that is following the school bus CANNOT pass the school bus while they are conducting this safety check.
When a school bus stops to let children on or off the bus, the law also places restrictions on other drivers on the roadway. First, a driver in Illinois must follow any reduced speed limits during school hours and when children are present. If a school bus stops on a two-lane roadway, it should extend the stop sign arm and have red flashing lights. A school bus with red flashing lights and a stop sign signals to other drivers exactly that: STOP. This is not a suggestion and the law requires that all vehicles in both lanes of travel to stop. Drivers should be stopping at least 20 feet away from the school bus. This allows for your child to cross the road safely and quickly.
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Injuries and the School Bus
According to a study conducted by School Transportation News, approximately 17,000 children are treated in the emergency room for injuries that are associated with or received while on a school bus. This study included injuries while on the bus, getting on or off the school bus, or walking toward or waiting for the school bus. The Center for Innovation Pediatric Practice further found that nearly a quarter of these injuries resulted from getting on and off the bus. While the law imposes requirements on the school bus driver and other drivers on the road and encourages compliance by threat of fines, it does not physically stop drivers who are not paying attention or try to pass a stopped bus because they are in a rush.
What You Can Do If Your Child Is Injured in an Accident Involving a School Bus
If your child was unfortunately injured in an incident that involved a school bus, you may be wondering what you could do to seek justice. If the bus driver failed to properly stop, use safety signals and hazard lights, or obey traffic signs, these may be grounds for you to receive compensation for the injuries your child sustained.
The specific facts of the incident will determine whether a lawsuit is appropriate or whether you can recover monetary damages. Additionally, under Illinois law, there is a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. Do not hesitate to reach out to us at the Kryder Law Group by phone at 312-223-1700, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the interactive chat client on our website for a free and confidential consultation. We know injuries are incredibly stressful, so check out our what our client say and see how we’ve helped countless others handle similar injuries.
School Bus Drivers and the Use of Technology
While technology, such as GPS systems and smartphones, has changed the way we drive, school bus drivers are not legally permitted to use their phones or other telecommunication devices while operating a school bus. According to ILCS Chapter 5 Section 12-813.1, school bus drivers must have access to a phone or two-way radio while they possess control of the bus. To use the phone to report an emergency or mechanical breakdown of the bus, the bus driver must park the bus first.
If a bus driver uses their cell phone while the bus is in operation, even during an emergency, they aren’t driving according to the law. At no point should a bus driver use their personal cell phone to make personal calls or to test. This puts the students at serious risk from the driver being distracted and increasing the chance that an accident will happen.
How Common are School Bus Accidents?
School bus accidents are more common than you’d expect. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 128 people die every year from school transportation-related automotive accidents. This includes people in other cars that the school bus struck, pedestrians, and bystanders. An even greater number of people survive school bus accidents, as most people involved in a school bus crash are injured and not killed. The exact cost to treat these injuries is unknown.
How to File a Lawsuit After a School Bus Accident
To seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering after a school bus accident, it is important to find a team of car accident lawyers that have experience working on cases involving school transportation accidents. There can be a lot of red tape surrounding school bus accidents, particularly if the bus involved is operated by the local school district. Having a knowledgable local attorney can make this process go smoother.
After calling 9-1-1 and seeking medical treatment, contacting a bus accident lawyer should be your next step. The lawyer will walk you through the process of determining whether or not you could have a viable legal case and figuring out who is liable. Then, the school bus accident attorney will start the process of discovery, gathering all of the evidence necessary to win your case.
For more information on crosswalk safety and what your rights are if your child is injured, please see Top 3 Tips to Keep Kids Safe: Gearing up for Back-to-School.