Parents across the United States are reeling this week from news about a tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In a horrific crash still under investigation by authorities, six children lost their lives. Another twelve children remain hospitalized, six of them in critical condition. It’s been heartbreaking to see the stories of young children who have been taken too soon and their parents who are now experiencing a loss unfathomable to most.
The investigation of the accident has already led to the arrest of the school bus driver, Johnthony Walker. The 24-year-old bus driver has been charged with vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving. These charges seem to stem largely from extensive evidence that Walker was exceeding the speed limit on a winding road. The questions about Johnthony Walker are far from fully answered, with parents claiming he has been observed driving recklessly before and reports of a prior accident during his short time as a commercially-licensed bus driver. Parents of surviving children claim that Walker asked if they were “ready to die” just prior to the accident, so the accidental nature of this fatal crash is likely far from decided.
The investigation is likely to include other questions, including whether or not Walker was properly vetted for the responsibility of driving young children and whether or not he should have been removed in the case of a prior accident. At the end of the day, multiple parties could be implicated as contributing to the horrific crash.
Suggestions of Mandatory Seatbelts Largely Ignored by States
School bus accidents are nothing new. In fact, well over a hundred people die in school bus crashes each year, and a majority of those killed are children. Despite endless data on the impact of seatbelts on traffic fatalities, safety restraints are still absent on most school buses. Fearing they had been unclear, an official at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration directly stated in 2015 that the NHTSA is a strong proponent of lifesaving seatbelts, including on school buses. And yet 44 states send millions of children off to school without requiring their transportation to have appropriate safety restraints. Only six states (California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas) require seatbelts in school buses.
Where is the disconnect? Quite simply, most states are placing dollars above children’s lives. It would be expensive to make such sweeping changes given the number of buses in operation on our nation’s roads. While it is true that a majority of injuries and deaths in school bus accidents happen to occupants of the non-bus vehicle, the reality is that serious crashes such as the one in Chattanooga can result in many deaths and life-altering injuries for the occupants inside a single bus. There simply is no excuse to continue pretending it is acceptable for children to head to school without the seatbelts required for everyone else in every other kind of vehicle.
If your child has been injured in a school bus accident, the vehicle accident attorneys at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm are ready to use our decades of experience to get justice on behalf of your child. Not only can a personal injury lawsuit help ease financial burdens on your family, but it can help create change in a system that poses serious dangers to other kids every single day. Call us today for a risk-free, no-cost consultation at 1-800-LEE-FREE.