Millions of people across the country rely on public transportation services every day. Americans who use these services trust that the operators of public transportation vehicles are fully trained, alert, and clear-minded so they can handle these vehicles safely. Most public transportation vehicles like buses are much larger than typical passenger vehicles, and operators of these large public transportation vehicles must obtain appropriate special licensing to handle them. This leads many to believe that riding in public transportation vehicles would be inherently safer than riding in a privately owned passenger vehicle, but this is not the case.
Each year, tens of thousands of public transportation accidents occur across the country. Some of these accidents involve regional bus services while others involve school buses full of young children. While most Americans hope and assume that public transportation drivers hold to a higher standard of care than a typical driver would, this is unfortunately not always the case.
Most Common Causes of Public Transportation Accidents
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a branch of the United States Department of Transportation responsible for collecting and extrapolating accident data from across the country, there were about 65,000 bus accidents in 2018 alone. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of bus accidents declined steadily from about 69,000. However, the sheer number of bus accidents that continue to occur throughout the nation is worrisome at best and a dangerous trend at worst.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has identified the most common causes of public transportation accidents, which include:
- Driver fatigue. Public transportation drivers work long shifts and must remain seated and driving for most of their shift times. This can easily cause fatigue, and public transportation drivers are more likely to cause accidents as they grow more tired.
- Distracted driving. All drivers, including private passenger vehicle operators and public transportation drivers, have a duty of care to focus on the road when they are behind the wheel. Distracted driving continues to plague the nation, especially when it comes to cell phone use.
- Moving violations. Public transportation drivers are just as prone to committing moving violations as regular drivers, such as speeding, running stop signs or red lights, failing to signal for turns, or making unexpected stops.
- Mechanical failures. Public transportation companies are responsible for ensuring their vehicles are in safe operational condition, and failure to do so could lead to mechanical failures which in turn cause serious accidents.
These are only a few of the possible causes of public transportation accidents in the US. It is also important to note that school buses pose some unique dangers to passengers as they do not include seat belts. While this may seem counterintuitive considering these vehicles transport children, school buses are specially designed to absorb the force of impact. However, tip-over and rollover accidents can still cause serious injuries to passengers.
Difficulties With Recovery from Public Transportation Accidents
When a private driver causes an accident due to negligence and injures another person, the injured party can file a personal injury claim against the negligent driver to secure compensation for their injuries and economic damages. However, if the negligent driver is a government employee, such as a driver for a government-operated transportation network, securing compensation isn’t so easy.
Most government entities have sovereign immunity, which renders them legally immune from civil litigation. Instead, these entities have a claims process which injured parties must navigate. They typically face strict deadlines and minimal recovery options. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help an individual in such a situation navigate the claims process and secure compensation from a government-controlled entity or agency, but it is usually quite difficult.
Ultimately, bus accidents are still comparatively rare in the US when you consider the number of motor vehicle accidents that occur throughout the country on a regular basis. However, when bus accidents do occur, the sheer size and weight of these vehicles means these accidents can cause serious damage. Everyone who uses public transportation should understand this risk before they take a trip on a public transportation vehicle.