Every day, many people choose buses to help get them to their destination. Buses provide safe and effective transport for large groups who need to travel together or for individuals who need a cheaper method of transportation than car or air travel. Unfortunately, bus accidents often cause significant damage to both the passengers on the bus and the other vehicles around them. Even small buses take up more space on the road than smaller passenger vehicles, and bus drivers may struggle to maneuver through tight spaces in traffic or around buildings. In 2016, we saw more 15,000 bus accidents involving 16,000 buses. About 35,000 persons suffered injuries in these accidents. Several common factors may contribute to bus accidents.
1. Bus Driver Negligence
Bus drivers may need to cover hundreds of miles in a single day, whether they travel in a repetitive route around town or head off across the country with their passengers. During those hours on the road, many drivers commit acts of negligence that may contribute to accidents. Consider some of these examples:
Bus drivers may drive while distracted. Like drivers in the general population, bus drivers who check their phones while driving can cause serious accidents. Cell phone use, however, does not pose the only distraction that can lead to an accident. Bus drivers may:
- Attempt to eat on the road. Messy foods, including sandwiches with the topping spilling out, salads, and items that require dipping sauces, can significantly increase accident risk.
- Pay more attention to their passengers than to the road in front of them. School bus drivers, in particular, may struggle with excessive distraction behind them when they need to keep their eyes on the road.
- Pay too much attention to a book on tape, music, or movie intended to help pass the time on the drive. Many buses come equipped with entertainment options. Even drivers on buses that do not come equipped with entertainment may bring their own to break up the monotony.
- Zone out. After hours on the road, often, drivers may simply stop paying close attention to the road. For many drivers, monotony leads to brain fog and difficulty paying attention to the road.
- Drive while drowsy. In addition to monotony, many bus drivers may find themselves growing ever drowsier as they try to keep their eyes on the road. Some bus drivers may continue driving in spite of the need to take a break, stretch their legs, or wake up a little. Unfortunately, drowsy driving poses just as much danger as driving while intoxicated.
Transportation companies are ultimately responsible for safe drivers so that they do not over-schedule or put unrealistic distance expectations on drivers and they may feel tempted to create short cuts. Bus drivers, like any other employees, are subject to the demands of the employer, the transportation companies.
Bus drivers may attempt to maneuver in a location too tight for the bus. Bus drivers require extensive training to prepare them to maneuver large vehicles. Some bus drivers, however, may attempt to maneuver the bus into a location that simply lacks enough room for it. The bus driver may decide to take a turn in spite of knowing that they do not have enough room, or they may try to maneuver the bus into a tight spot even though cars block their way. Sometimes, bus drivers may decide to attempt dangerous maneuvers in an effort to keep up with their schedule or to keep their passengers happy.
Bus drivers may drive while intoxicated. Driving while intoxicated decreases a bus driver’s response time and his ability to make reasoned, well thought out decisions behind the wheel. Unfortunately, bus drivers who choose to drive while even mildly buzzed may significantly increase their accident risk, raising the potential danger substantially for their passengers.
Bus drivers may choose to ignore the rules of the road. A large bus takes up a great deal of space on the street. As a result, bus drivers sometimes decide that they do not need to adhere to the rules of the road. After all, other drivers will get out of their way, right? Bus drivers may choose to speed, especially on long trips. They may run red lights, ignore stop signs, or merely choose a rolling stop instead of coming to a full stop. Choosing to ignore traffic laws makes the driver’s path erratic and unpredictable, which can make it difficult for other drivers to avoid potential accidents.
2. Bus Company Negligence
In some cases, the bus driver may do their best to keep their passengers safe, but feel as though the company they work for stands in their way. Bus companies have significantly less regulation than, for example, air travel. Bus companies do not receive the same level of federal oversight, nor do they receive the same amount of attention that airports and pilots receive. In the absence of oversight, bus companies may not keep up with appropriate policies.
- Bus companies may not provide adequate maintenance for their buses. Often, bus drivers work for a company, not for themselves. They do not own the buses or be responsible for maintenance. Some companies may even have drivers swap back and forth between different buses, which prevents bus drivers from getting to know the quirks offered by specific buses or being able to hear when the engine sound changes. Inadequate maintenance may need to engine failure or other problems on the road.
- Bus companies may have unrealistic expectations for their drivers. Long hours on the road, whether around a city or on the highway, can cause significant driver fatigue and leave drivers struggling to pay attention. Some bus companies, however, require their drivers to keep up with unrealistic hours. The company may insist that they maintain an unrealistic schedule, forcing them to drive above the posted speed limit in order to get their passengers to their intended destination. When driver fatigue or failure to adhere to the rules of the road causes an accident, the bus company may bear partial liability.
- Bus companies may fail to offer adequate safety precautions on their buses. As long as old buses continue running, bus companies may not provide the major upgrades those buses need to keep up with the latest safety standards. Old buses may, for example, lack seat belts, or they might not meet the latest safety standards for safety exits, lighting, and more. Passengers who suffer an accident on these buses may have higher rates of injury than those on more modern buses that are kept up to standard.
3. Error From Other Drivers
Bus drivers receive stringent training to help them maneuver these large vehicles. In some cases, however, other drivers may cause problems that lead to accidents. These may include:
Left turn accident scenarios. Sometimes, left turn accidents result from bus drivers who fail to ensure they have adequate room to make a turn. Other times, however, left turn accidents result from other drivers who fail to yield and allow the bus adequate room to maneuver. Bus drivers often cannot see as other drivers move into their blind spots in spite of their turn signals.
Blind spot accidents. Large buses also have large blind spots. While drivers may install special mirrors to help improve visibility and make it easier for them to see what happens around them, they may remain unable to see specific areas around them. Drivers should remain where they can see a bus driver’s mirrors, ensuring greater visibility; however, drivers who fail to remain in that key area may cause accidents.
Reckless driving. Many bus drivers do their best to avoid reckless driving, but reckless drivers can engage in unpredictable behavior, making it difficult for bus drivers to determine their next move. Reckless drivers may commit a number of errors on the road, such as:
- Darting in front of a bus and slamming on their brakes. Buses, like other large vehicles, require more room to stop than smaller vehicles. As a result, drivers may unintentionally cause a rear-end collision with the bus when they stop too abruptly.
- Ignoring traffic signals. Any time drivers ignore traffic signals, they can create situations that lead to severe accidents.
- Failing to yield to a bus. If a bus has moved into the intersection before the light changes or the driver has moved into a specific portion of the road, other drivers should yield to the bus.
- Providing inadequate room for a bus to maneuver. If a bus driver gets into a tight spot, other drivers should allow them adequate room to maneuver out of it instead of forcing them into a tighter corner or making it impossible for them to maneuver.
- Ignoring bus signals. While bus drivers will do their best to visually check the area around them, they may struggle to see vehicles in their blind spots. Moving into these areas when a bus driver signals his intent to move into that space can cause serious accidents.
4. Weather Problems
Weather conditions can impact all drivers, including bus drivers. Many bus drivers need to get back on the road in spite of poor weather conditions, which can significantly increase the risk of accidents. Poor weather can cause driving challenges in a variety of ways.
- Rain often leaves roads slick. Rain may cause more problems when it first starts falling, especially light rains. In the early stages of a shower, oil remains on the road. Combined with the falling rain, the oil becomes extremely slick, which can leave buses struggling to maneuver.
- Rain, snow, and fog can decrease visibility. Bus drivers may struggle more to see the other vehicles around them. Poor visibility makes dangerous behavior on the part of other drivers even more problematic, since bus drivers may not notice them until they have already caused a serious problem.
- Snow can create slippery conditions. In many big cities, buses keep running in spite of snow, ice, and other slippery hazards. People still need to get to work, and the bus line often continues to provide that service in spite of difficult weather conditions. Unfortunately, snow can lead to sliding on the road or prevent brakes from working properly.
In bad weather, bus drivers must take precautions above and beyond the ones that usually protect them and their passengers on the road. They also receive special training to deal with hazardous conditions. This training, however, may not prevent accidents entirely, especially in severe weather.
5. Mechanical Failure
If a bus company takes the steps necessary to maintain their buses, mechanical failure should rarely happen with the exception of a flat tire. Mechanical failures may quickly lead to significant problems for bus drivers and their passengers.
- Fires can lead to the need for a fast evacuation, which may prove difficult in a bus filled with passengers. Fires may occur due to problems with the engine, inadequate oil, or other mechanical failures.
- Flat tires may not cause the same problems for a bus that would occur for a normal driver on the road, but a flat can still bring a bus grinding to a halt. Not only that, buses become even more difficult to maneuver with a flat tire.
- Steering problems can make it difficult to maneuver the bus, leaving the bus driver struggling to respond to other drivers around them. Many systems work together to make steering possible, and a breach in any of them can leave the bus driver floundering.
- Brake problems can make the bus difficult or even impossible to stop. Unfortunately, this can leave the driver entirely unable to prevent a collision. Bus drivers with brake failures may need to make a fast decision about what to hit—and often, they find few good options available.
- Uneven weight distribution, including problems with passenger loading or baggage loading as well as problems with the construction of the bus, can make the large bus even more unwieldy. In this case, the driver may struggle to adequately steer the bus to compensate for the shift in weight.
Did You Suffer Injuries in a Bus Accident?
If you suffered injuries in a bus accident, you may need legal help to recover the compensation you deserve. Don’t attempt to handle negotiations with the insurance company yourself after a bus accident. Instead, contact The Cagle Law Firm today. Our St. Louis bus accident attorneys will set up a free consultation, learn more about your injuries and your bus accident, and help you better determine how to proceed in the aftermath of your bus accident. Call us at (314) 276-1681 or email us using our online contact form.