Last year, an Austin Independent School District bus was carrying 31 students on north IH-35. Witnesses said a burgundy car struck the side of the school bus, which caused the school bus tire to explode. The bus driver lost control and hit a van and a delivery truck before smashing into a light pole. The burgundy car struck a tree shortly after.
Two children were taken to Dell Children’s Medical Center for injuries while four adults were taken to another hospital, though the adult injuries were less severe. One of the two children suffered from more life-threatening injuries. Many of the children on the bus complained of pain, though none were taken to the hospital following the incident. The cause of the crash has not been determined and is part of an ongoing investigation. The driver of the burgundy car was cited for veering into the bus lane and causing the bus accident.
The State Needs to Do More to Protect Students
While some Austin ISD buses have seatbelts, drivers and administrators are rather lax about having the children wear them. A later investigation showed that though there was a program to install seat belts on new school buses in Texas, only four out of the state’s 1,300 school districts complied with the program. Shortly after, the program lost funding and has remained inactive for the past three legislative sessions.
Moreover, having a school bus on such a busy interstate during high-volume traffic times is a hazard. The state and the district must come together to find bus route hazards, such as dangerous interstate highways, and avoid them.
The state must also work to ensure that all buses are maintained and properly upgraded to accommodate modern safety standards. If a school bus does not use non-flammable seat materials, does not have easy access to a fire extinguisher, have escape hatches that are easy to access and seatbelts, then it is not safe for children to board and has no business operating.
The State and School Districts Must Work Together to Ensure Student Safety on School Buses
Statistically, taking the school bus is the safest way to transport children to and from school. School buses carry roughly 24 million students every year and travel a total of 4 billion miles to and from schools in the area. However, 71 students on school buses died in a bus accident from 1994-2004. And though this is a particularly low number when compared to the total number of deaths caused by vehicle accidents not involving school buses, there is always room for improvement when it comes to child safety.