Accidents involving large buses are always scary, and they are sometimes very serious—even taking lives. Statistics show that there are approximately 325 buses involved in fatal accidents each year, but a study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) shows that not all these bus accidents are necessarily the same. This particular Buses Involved in Fatal Accidents (BIFA) study from UMTRI broke down the overall issue of fatal bus accidents and looked deeper into how the type of bus and its operator factors into fatal crashes.
Ultimately, the study found that there were significant differences in serious crashes involving different kinds of buses and bus drivers.
Using data from 1999 to 2005, the BIFA survey mainly focused on four kinds of buses and found that:
The remainder of fatal bus accidents involved other types, or the type of carrier was unknown. Although these overall numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story about fatal crashes, it’s already clear that there are some major differences between different kinds of buses. However, these initial numbers are just the first step toward looking at the issue of bus crashes in much more detail.
Not every crash is caused by operator error or a mistake by the bus company. However, it’s important to look at the ones that are, because they are often the most preventable. The main kinds of bus driver errors identified by this study included:
While it should be no surprise that these kinds of errors lead to deadly bus crashes, the incidence of each of these kinds of errors differed quite a bit by type of bus. According to the BIFA numbers:
According to the BIFA study, the majority of drivers involved in bus wrecks didn’t have a prior history of violations, but there were still a disturbing number of drivers who did have past issues with their driving records. The study recorded percentages of drivers in bus wrecks who had a history of:
According to the published numbers in the report,
The BIFA study also showed that it is more than just the bus occupants who suffer in serious wrecks. Depending on the type of bus, serious wrecks may take the lives of those outside the bus more frequently than the lives of those inside. On average, across all four types of buses, there were few fatal injuries to occupants. For example, while school buses were at the top of the list for highest number of reported fatalities, only about eight percent of those fatalities were occupants. Pedestrians accounted for about 19 percent of fatalities in school bus crashes, and the overwhelming majority of fatalities in school bus crashes were the occupants of other vehicles.
However, fatalities in charter bus accident were more often occupants of the bus. The study reported that 34.3 percent of fatalities in charter buses accidents were bus occupants. While that percentage still isn’t the majority of fatalities, the higher percentage does point to potentially important differences in what happens when each type of bus is involved in a wreck. For each of the four types of buses studied, there was a wide variance in who the victims of fatal crashes were.
The details really do matter after a tragic bus wreck. Whether your loved one was a pedestrian, occupant, cyclist, or a passenger in another car at the time, it’s important to investigate what happened and learn more about the options available for your recovery. If your family has lost a loved one in a bus crash, you may have rights to financial compensation and answers about what happened. Unfortunately, although your family may have been seriously affected by a wreck, it’s still up to you to take steps to get adequately informed.
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