California School Bus Crash Report Understanding the Causes and Impacts

California School Bus Crash Report: Understanding the Causes and Impacts

School buses, at some point, have been a part of your school life. NYSBCA estimates that 28 million kids take at least 480,000 buses to school. Amazing, right? NHTSA also considers them as one of the safest vehicles out there as there are only 1% of reported accidents involving school buses. Although the percentage is low, accidents still do happen. 

School bus crashes can be traumatic events with lasting impacts on communities and individuals. You may remember hearing about various incidents in California where, unfortunately, such accidents have occurred. In the school year 2021-22, there were at least 108 deaths recorded involved in school bus accidents. 

Involving often a mix of students and adult chaperones or drivers, these collisions carry a significant emotional weight due to the young lives they affect. As you explore the topic of school bus crashes in California, you will uncover both the dangers present on the roadways and the efforts to bolster safety for student transportation.

School Bus Incidents The Past Few Years

Immediate Steps to Take After a Bus Crash in California

In recent years, California has witnessed several school bus-related incidents that have resulted in injuries and, in some cases, fatalities. Specifically, a collision between a school bus and a vehicle in Desert Hot Springs on December 9, 2021, tragically led to the death of a child and injuries to others.

Another alarming crash involved a school bus in Temecula, where DUI is suspected, and four individuals were hospitalized. In another severe collision in Orland, a charter bus carrying high school students collided with a FedEx delivery truck, resulting in 10 fatalities, including 5 students, detailed by CBS News.

A distressing accident occurred on August 24, 2023, involving a Kern High School District bus en route to a football game, which resulted in one fatality. Moreover, the California Highway Patrol reported a multi-vehicle crash in Temecula involving a school bus with seven students on board.

These incidents underscore the need for continued vigilance and safety measures to protect schoolchildren and others on the road. Each accident, while unique in circumstances, has prompted discussions regarding school bus safety and the measures necessary to prevent such events in the future.

Response and Emergency Services

When you’re involved in a school bus crash in California, emergency response teams are trained to evaluate and address the situation quickly. Here’s an outline of what happens during such emergencies:

  • Immediate Action: Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and fire department personnel are dispatched immediately. Upon arrival, they assess the safety of the scene to ensure that they can approach without additional risks, such as fire, electrical hazards, or chemical spills.
  • Medical Assistance: Your safety is paramount. EMS workers prioritize identifying injuries and providing initial medical care. If you are injured, you will be swiftly transported to a hospital.
  • Hazard Mitigation: Any hazards, like fuel leaks or fallen power lines, are promptly contained to prevent additional incidents.
  • Investigation and Reporting: Once you’re safe, law enforcement will investigate the crash site and require a mandatory report from the bus driver regarding any suspected child abuse; this is in accordance with the California Department of Human Services’ Child Welfare Division (read more here).

In response to an earlier tragic event involving a school bus crash, it highlighted the importance of having well-regulated maintenance and inspection procedures to prevent such incidents.

California Codes You Should Know Involving School Bus Accidents

California Codes You Should Know Involving School Bus Accidents

When school buses are involved in an accident in California, several civil codes and regulations come into play regarding potential violations and enforcement measures. It’s important to note that specific accident circumstances—such as the cause, whether injuries occurred, and the involvement of other vehicles—can influence which laws are relevant. 

Below are some key areas of California law that might be enforced or found to have been violated in the event of a school bus accident:

Vehicle Operation and Safety

  • CVC Section 22112: This section specifically addresses the operation of school buses, including the use of flashing red lights and stop signals. Violations of these rules during an incident could lead to enforcement actions.
  • CVC Section 22454: This law makes it illegal for drivers to pass a school bus with flashing red signals. If a school bus accident involves another vehicle that violated this law, the driver of that vehicle could be held liable.

Driver Qualifications and Conduct

  • CVC Section 12517: Covers the requirements for school bus driver certification, including necessary training and qualifications. If an accident were caused by a driver’s lack of proper certification or adherence to these standards, it could be a significant legal issue.
  • Education Code Sections 3983039842: These sections outline additional requirements for school bus drivers, including health and safety training. Non-compliance with these educational standards could be relevant in the aftermath of an accident.

Liability and Damages

  • California Civil Code Sections 1714 and 2100: These sections pertain to general negligence and the duty of care owed by drivers to passengers and other road users. If a school bus driver’s actions or inactions contributed to an accident, these codes might be invoked in civil litigation for damages.
  • Government Code Sections 810-996.6: These laws govern claims against public entities, which would include public school districts in cases where a school bus accident might involve issues of maintenance, operation, or other factors for which the school district could be held responsible.

Insurance and Compensation

  • CVC Section 16500: This section requires all vehicles, including school buses, to be insured. The adequacy of insurance coverage could be a factor in compensating school bus accident victims.

Regulatory and Policy Changes

Recent incidents have catalyzed significant reform in California’s legislative approach to school transportation safety. Your understanding of these changes is crucial for compliance and ensuring student safety.

Transportation Policies

California’s Department of the California Highway Patrol has implemented strict guidelines concerning school bus accidents. This includes articulated reporting procedures and requirements for school bus drivers post-accident. It’s mandatory that each school bus company adheres to these detailed protocols to align with state expectations.

School District Procedures

School districts have also revised their procedures in response to these regulatory changes. Documentation and reporting now demand more thorough records. All accidents must be recorded regardless of severity, encompassing instances of property damage exceeding $1,000 or any level of personal injury as specified in the California Vehicle Code.

State Legislation

The state has reacted to public calls for increased safety by enacting legislation targeting school bus safety. An example is the focus on child passenger restraint systems, with stringent adherence laid out for children under the age of eight, as detailed in the California Code of Regulations and Child Passenger Safety laws. These laws extend to the use of safety belts and appropriate child safety seats, imposing penalties for non-compliance.

Legal Proceedings

Legal Proceedings

When you’re involved in a school bus crash in California, the legal process may entail both civil and criminal facets. Your understanding of this system is essential, as the outcomes can profoundly affect compensation and justice.

Lawsuits and Settlements

Following a school bus accident in California, you may decide to file a civil lawsuit. This is a legal claim seeking compensation for damages incurred. It is vital to recognize the statute of limitations, which restricts the time you have to initiate legal action. Settlements vary, some reaching substantial amounts, particularly in cases involving wrongful death or severe injury.

Criminal Charges

In certain school bus crash incidents, if there is evidence of negligence or misconduct, criminal charges might be brought against the responsible party. For example, a bus driver operating under the influence could face DUI charges. These criminal proceedings are separate from civil lawsuits but can affect their course and outcomes.

Although school buses are mostly considered one of the safest vehicles on the road, being involved in a school bus accident is still something that needs to be taken seriously. If you’ve been involved in any school bus accidents, The Personal Injury Center can help you connect with expert lawyers who can help you with your personal injury claim. Contact them today! 

Preventive Measures

In California, addressing the safety of school buses is multifaceted, involving not only the vehicles themselves but also the education of those who interact with them.

Safety Education Initiatives

Your child’s protection begins with effective safety education. In California, schools are expected to implement comprehensive safety programs that teach students how to behave on and around buses. For instance, NHTSA guidance insists on education regarding waiting for the bus safely, boarding procedures, and navigating bus stops. These initiatives also extend to training for bus drivers in defensive driving and proper student management.

Vehicle Maintenance Standards

The physical state of a school bus crucially impacts its safety. California mandates strict vehicle maintenance standards, requiring regular inspections and repairs to vital components like brakes, tires, and lights. These measures help prevent accidents stemming from vehicle malfunctions. You can learn more about maintaining a safer school bus fleet along with a maintenance checklist by reviewing tips for preventing school bus accidents.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you will find answers about the processes and measures concerning school bus accidents in California, focusing on investigation, post-accident actions, statistics, safety protocols, emergency response, and victim compensation.

How are school bus accidents investigated in California?

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has the statutory responsibility to investigate all collisions involving school buses. Investigations are comprehensive, examining factors like vehicle operation, mechanical conditions, and driver actions to determine the cause and find ways to prevent future incidents.

What steps should be taken following a school bus collision?

Immediately following a school bus accident, check for injuries among all passengers and call 911. Once emergency services are notified, the school district and parents must be informed. Documentation of the scene and statements from witnesses can assist in subsequent investigations.

Are there any recent statistics on school bus accidents in the state?

Statistical data on school bus accidents are tracked and published regularly by agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although numbers fluctuate yearly, these reports help identify trends and areas for safety improvement.

What safety measures are California schools taking to prevent bus accidents?

California schools are implementing measures including Child Safety Alert Systems to ensure student safety and adherence to state regulations. Enhanced driver training programs and regular safety drills with students are also in place.

Can you detail the protocol for emergency response to school bus crashes?

In the event of a school bus accident, emergency response protocol involves securing the scene, providing immediate medical attention, and notifying law enforcement. Buses are equipped with radios to ensure swift communication with dispatch centers and emergency responders.

What compensation is available to victims of school bus accidents?

Victims of school bus accidents may be entitled to compensation covering medical costs, rehabilitation, and in some cases, pain and suffering. It is important to consult with legal professionals who have expertise in the California Code of Regulations pertaining to vehicle accidents for accurate advice.