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Driver distractions lead to school bus accidents

School bus accidents are tragic on many levels, especially when children are injured and killed. They can also be very costly for schools, as a study done by United Educators found that they accounted for over $7 million in losses. They also made up a full 16 percent of the claims made by public schools, so they're more common than a lot of people think. They can also be very costly on an individual basis, as a pair of claims came close to $1 million all on their own.

So, what causes these accidents? There are many causes, but one big one that UE found was driver distraction.

First off, they looked at distractions inside the bus. These could include a driver talking on a cell phone or texting. They could also include a driver trying to pick something up off of the floor without stopping the bus. With so many backpacks, bags, and school-related items on the bus, this is a serious concern.

Other interior distractions included eating behind the wheel, turning the climate control system on or off, and adjusting the music. Naturally, drivers could also be distracted by the students on the bus.

The UE study also warned that exterior distractions could play a large role. These include other vehicles on the road, flashing billboards, work zones, pedestrians, and other car accidents.

In some cases, drivers were trying to be safe. For example, one driver was watching a pedestrian on a skateboard while stopped, making sure he wouldn't get in the way of the bus. The driver didn't realize all the students weren't out of the way, pulled away from the stop, and ran over a student.

The parents of students who are hurt in school bus accidents should know they may be able to seek compensation. Bus drivers have a duty to deliver students safely to their destinations, and, when negligence compromises their ability to do so, families could have a legal right to sue.

Source: United Educators, "School Buses and the Danger of Driver Distraction," accessed Nov. 11, 2016

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Brian Jensen

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