A Weston Public School bus collided with the low-hanging branches of a tree, injuring eight children who were traveling on the school bus. Three windows were broken when the bus hit the tree. No one was taken to the hospital; injuries to the children included bruises, cuts and scrapes.
Westport and Weston Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were on the scene to evaluate the children before releasing each child to his or her parents. A portion of Lyons Plain Road was closed for an hour due to the bus accident.
Although there were only minor injuries in this most recent school bus accident, police are still investigating the school bus crash. A similar school bus accident happened last November in Westport: a bus driver hit a tree while students were on board, injuring some of the passengers. In that accident, the driver was cited for failure to drive in the proper lane, reckless driving and reckless endangerment.
School Bus Accidents Challenge the Trust Parents Put in Connecticut Bus Drivers
Accidents like these leave many parents wondering whether their children are safe on Connecticut's school buses. Any accident that occurs on a school bus full of children has the potential to have devastating effects on multiple families.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that annually, 19 school-age children are killed in school bus-related crashes, whether as passengers or pedestrians. Children between the ages of five and seven appear to be the most vulnerable to school bus accidents, making up 43 percent of the children killed in a school bus accident.
First and foremost in contributing to the safety of children onboard a school bus is the skill and attentiveness of the school bus driver. Even minor accidents, or accidents that result in only minor injuries, raise questions of what went wrong. School bus 'cargo' is just too precious to ignore what may be a warning sign of accidents or injuries to come if problems are not addressed.
Qualifications for Connecticut School Bus Drivers
The Connecticut School Transportation Association (COSTA) lays out the requirements for Connecticut school bus drivers. Drivers must:
- Maintain an active commercial driver's license (CDL) with a passenger (P) and school (S) rating.
- Undergo a physical examination
- Submit to a state and federal background check and cross-check against the sex offender registry
- Complete a minimum of ten hours of school bus training including loading and unloading, crossing railroad tracks, applicable emergency procedures and child management
- Complete any company- or school district-directed training programs
Becoming a bus driver may not be easy, but the responsibility that each school bus driver assumes each time he or she gets behind the wheel is enormous.
Improving Connecticut School Bus Safety
Ensuring that school buses are driven by properly trained and qualified drivers is one step toward ensuring the safety of children who ride the bus. Both parents and children play a role in making school buses a safe option for transportation to and from school.
Children should arrive at the bus stop slightly before the bus' scheduled arrival time, lining up at least 6 feet from where the bus will stop, in a safe location. If a child must cross the street to board the bus, he or she should do so in front of the bus, at least five giant steps in front of the bus so that the driver can see him or her. Children should not walk behind the bus and if something is dropped beside the bus, should let the driver know before attempting to retrieve it. Staying within sight of the driver will make tragic bus accidents less likely.
Parents, and all drivers on the road, should understand the flashing light system. If the yellow lights are flashing on a school bus, the bus is slowing down and preparing to stop. If the red lights on the school bus are flashing, the bus has come to a stop and is loading or unloading children. The bus' stop arm should be fully extended and all cars must stop until the flashing red lights stop.
It is also important to teach children to behave while on the school bus. Although the bus driver is trained in child management, rowdy or rough-housing children can quickly create a dangerous distraction to drivers as well as pose a threat to other children on the bus.
An Ounce of Prevention May Protect Connecticut Children Traveling by School Bus
Thankfully, there were no serious injuries in the Westport, Connecticut school bus accidents. But, not all accidents have 'happy endings.' If your child has been injured, a Connecticut bus accident attorney can help you understand your rights to compensation to pay for any medical bills or other expenses caused by the negligence of the bus driver, busing company or other driver on Connecticut roadways.
Highlighting bus safety is a positive outcome of any school bus accident. Understanding how each person, whether an adult or a child, affects the safety of all who board the school bus will help keep more children safe when traveling on a Connecticut school bus.