String of Fatal School Bus Stop Accidents Prompt Reminder About Drivers' Responsibilities

The final days of October and first days of November are providing a tragic reminder about school bus safety. In the span of just one week, a rash of fatal and serious accidents involving school buses and children have claimed multiple lives, caused devastating injuries, and upended the lives of families. The six separate incidents include:

  • Tuesday, October 30 – Last Tuesday, three children were tragically killed in a fatal school bus accident. According to authorities from Indiana, a 9-year-old girl and her twin 6-year-old brothers were crossing the street to their school bus stop when they were struck and killed by a pickup driver who failed to stop behind the school bus. The 24-year-old driver was arrested and charged with multiple felonies and a misdemeanor for passing a school bus that had its stop arm extended. An additional child was injured in the crash and was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
  • Wednesday, October 31 – Two separate school bus accidents occurred last Wednesday. The first, in Mississippi, resulted in the death of a 9-year-old student who was crossing the road to board a school bus. The driver, who has unlawfully passed the bus, has been charged with aggravated assault. Later that day, a 5-year-old boy was struck and injured by a teen driver as he was crossing the street. The driver was given two traffic citations, and stated to authorities that he realized too late the bus ahead of him had been stopped with its stop arm extended.
  • Thursday, November 1 – A 7-year-old boy in central Pennsylvania was found dead on the road after being run over by a slow-moving vehicle. Officials have identified a driver and are continuing their investigation. Another incident that very same day in Florida resulted in five children and two adults suffering life-threatening injuries. The driver in that incident has not been charged with a crime pending an investigation, but witnesses reported he may have been driving at high speed.

This incidents are nothing if not profound and unspeakable tragedies, and our entire legal team at Leonard Law Group extends our condolences to the families affected. While little can make amends for the loss of a loved one, and especially a young child who had so much life left to live, we want to remind families affected by incidents such as these that civil lawsuits – including personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits – can be critical to ensuring at-fault parties (including negligent motorists) are held accountable for their actions, and financially liable for the damages families suffer.

One additional issue we would like to remind families of is that when matters involving negligent conduct result in criminal charges against suspects, which is the case in many of the incidents mentioned above, those criminal cases are separate from any civil legal matter. While criminal cases can also ensure accountability, they focus on guilt and penalties, and not the financial responsibility of at-fault parties. Civil lawsuits, therefore, become incredibly important to serving as the viable source of compensation families need following such incidents. This is similar to cases where motorists may be charged with crimes like drunk driving after causing injuries or death in preventable car accidents.

School Bus Safety: Know the Rules

Unfortunately, it is often tragedy which prompts the need for change and increased awareness. This is undoubtedly true with school bus safety. If such incidents and losses are to be prevented in the future, it becomes everyone’s responsibility to make safe driving their most important priority when driving near school buses and in school zones. Not only is it the law, it’s also their obligation as licensed drivers.

To help you understand the important laws which apply to school bus safety, our legal team has put together a few key things to know:

  • Stopped School Buses – Although school buses are motor vehicles that can be involved in wrecks while they are being driven just like any other vehicle, the most dangerous part of a student’s ride is when the school bus comes to a stop, and they must get on or off the bus. Drivers anywhere near stopped school buses need to be extra vigilant and cautious behind the wheel, and parents need to ensure their children understand important safety rules, including not walking into the street without first looking both ways and crossing only at intersections.
  • The Law on Stopped School Buses – In Illinois, all drivers traveling on two-lane roads, in BOTH directions, must stop when a school bus is stopped or when it has flashing red lights or stop arms extended. On four-lane roads, only drivers traveling the same direction as the must bust stop. For maximum safety, drivers should stop at least 20 before reaching a stopped school bus, and proceed only when the stop arm has been retracted and it is safe and clear to move on. Failing to do so can result in citations and fines, including elevated fines for a second or subsequent offense within five years.
  • School Zone Speeds – Drivers near schools or neighborhoods with school children present need to reduce their speeds, as children may unexpectedly enter the roadway. In fact, Illinois law requires drivers to travel at no more than 20 mph in school zones, and can be cited and fined $150 when they fail to reduce their speed.

As a law firm that fights for injured victims and families throughout Chicago and the state of Illinois, Leonard Law Group knows that a focus on safety is critical to reducing accident risks and protecting the safety of not only yourself, but all those around you. Unfortunately, as we have seen first-hand in car accidents, bus accidents, and cases involving other motor vehicle collisions – including those involving DUI, hit and run, and pedestrian injuries – not every motorist meets their duty of care when behind the wheel. When this happens, victims and families have the right to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim to secure needed justice, and the financial compensation they deserve.

If you would like more information about your rights following any type of motor vehicle accident in Chicago or the surrounding areas, Leonard Law Group is here to help. Contact us today to speak personally with a member of our team about your rights and how our award-winning lawyers may be able to fight for you.

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