An elementary school student was struck and seriously injured by a vehicle while boarding a bus in Sedgwick recently. The child was later transported to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. Coincidentally, the accident occurred just days before National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 20-24.
According to the Maine State Police, the crash occurred as the child was boarding the bus to school around 7:30 a.m. The bus slowed with its yellow flashing lights to indicate it was preparing to stop to pick up the girl. However, she was not standing outside as usual, so the driver pulled to the side of the road and turned off the yellow flashing lights, an indicator that through traffic was allowed to pass. As a 64-year-old driver was passing the bus, the girl raced out into the street, thinking the bus was stopped for her. (It was, but the absence of yellow flashing lights meant it wasn’t safe for her to cross.)
The private busing company that provides service to the school district declined to comment.
Our Bangor personal injury attorneys understand the driver of the car is not expected to face any charges, as neither speed nor alcohol is believed to have been a factor in the crash. However, it’s possible the bus company and/or driver could face some degree of liability if protocol was not followed in some way.
It’s almost certain the girl would be assigned some degree of comparative fault for running out into the road when she was not designated to do so. However, that might be mitigated by the fact that she is a child and the bus driver would have had a duty to anticipate potentially unexpected and unsafe action from a student passenger. The key will be determining what policies or protocol, if any, the bus driver may have breached.
Maine follows a 50 percent modified comparative fault model in injury cases, meaning the claim will not be barred so long as plaintiff’s fault is not more than 50 percent.
Most school bus related accidents occur before or just after a student gets on the bus, while waiting at the stop, crossing the street, or while preparing to board or exit.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association reports an average of 19 school-age children die each year of bus-related traffic accidents. Of those, 14 – or 74 percent – are student pedestrians, as opposed to student occupants. About one-half of those killed were between the ages of 5 and 7. The majority of crashes happen just after school, between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
According to the Maine Department of Transportation, approximately 80 percent of Maine’s students are transported to school via school bus. Nationally, the rate is just 50 percent. In total, that’s about 152,000 Maine pupils who rely on school bus transportation every day. There are approximately 2,800 school buses operating throughout the state on any given school day, and collectively, those buses travel nearly 30 million miles a year.
The theme for this year’s national school bus safety week is, “At my stop, you stop.”
The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety offers the following tips for children near school buses:
Always walk 10 feet in front of the bus and never behind it. If you can’t see the driver, the driver won’t be able to see you.
If you drop something in front of the bus, tell the driver before going to get it.
Keep arms and heads inside the bus at all times.
Watch for motorists as your cross the street, board the bus or wait at your stop. Keep in mind they may not always be able to see you, so act defensively.
If your child is the victim of a Bangor school bus accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Sedgwich student struck by car while getting on the bus, Oct. 16, 2014, By Faith DeAmbrose, The Weekly Packet
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