Articles Posted in School Bus Accidents

School bus with stop sign and lights

With students back to school in Massachusetts, local police departments are stressing safety around school buses while stepping up enforcement of drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

If a traffic enforcement sting came to your community, how many drivers would be stopped and cited for unsafe driving? Would you be among them?

We ask these questions as students head back to school across Massachusetts, in communities from Boston and Cambridge to Plymouth and Brockton to Worcester and Springfield.

Police departments across the state have set up traffic enforcement over the past few weeks, focusing on drivers who are not stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks and school buses. A few of the communities include New Bedford, Attleboro and South Boston.

In South Boston, the surveillance followed the tragic death of a 2-year-old in a traffic crash. The child was being pushed in a stroller on the sidewalk, when a van and car collided. The van plowed onto the sidewalk, injuring and ultimately killing the young boy. A day after the crash, the Boston Police Department and Massachusetts State Police set up a traffic enforcement initiative focusing on crosswalk enforcement, speeding and other unsafe driving behaviors. Within a few days, officers had issued approximately 500 citations for traffic violations. This is a very telling number, one Massachusetts drivers can’t ignore.

Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston law firm which specializes in personal injury, medical malpractice and car accident cases. Our firm is committed to safety for children, giving away over 20,000 bicycle helmets to children in Massachusetts through our Project KidSafe campaign. With experience representing clients who have been injured in pedestrian crosswalk accidents and other traffic crashes, we offer these tips for safe driving:

Slow down at crosswalks. Students who walk to school may have a crossing guard help them across the street. Always slow down as you approach crossing guards and children. Make eye contact with the crossing guard and assume you should stop. The crossing guard will wave you through when it’s safe to go.

But even when there is no crossing guard, drivers must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk when there is a “Walk” or green signal. Other times, drivers have a responsibility to yield the right of way by slowing or stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk. This includes times when pedestrians are in the crosswalk on the same side as the driver and when pedestrians are approaching from the other half of the lane and within 10 feet. There is a $200 fine for crosswalk violations in Massachusetts.

The best thing to do is approach crosswalks slowly and stop if you see anyone even near the entrance of the crosswalk. If you can, make eye contact with them, then wave for them to go. Depending on whether other cars stop, they may not be able to immediately cross. You may need to be patient for a few moments.

M.G.L. c.89 § 11 is the law governing pedestrian rights in crosswalks in Massachusetts. Read more about the law.

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schoolbuskids.jpgThere is much to plan as students return to school each September. Buying new school supplies and clothes often makes the top of the to-do list, but even more important is planning how your child will travel to and from school safely.

Approximately 17,000 children are sent to U.S. emergency rooms each year in school bus accidents, according to a 2006 report in the journal Pediatrics. Some 42 percent of student bus accident injuries and deaths result from crashes. But nearly 25 percent of school bus injuries occur during the everyday activity of boarding and stepping down from the bus.

There are many ways students travel to school: the school bus, parent car pools, walking and bicycling. All of these carry a risk for injuries and accidents – but this can be greatly reduced when drivers and students follow the rules of safety. Here the Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck offer parents tips to keep their children safe:

Avoiding School Bus Accidents:

  • Most Massachusetts school districts do not have seat belts on school buses, but if yours does, explain the importance of wearing one to your child.
  • Instruct your child to wait until the bus is completely stopped before trying to board or exit.
  • Tell your child to stand at least six feet back from the curb as the bus approaches.
  • Explain to children they should never cross the street behind a bus because it may result in a pedestrian accident.
  • Wait at the bus stop with young children. If you cannot do this every day, ask another parent to share the responsibility with you.

Avoiding Student Pedestrian Accidents:

  • If possible, walk to school with your child. Arrange a neighborhood school walk and have parents take turns supervising.
  • If your child is walking alone, explain that he must cross the street in the crosswalk under the supervision of a school crossing guard.
  • Have your child wear bright colored clothing to avoid car accidents.

Avoiding Student Carpool Accidents:

  • All children should wear seat belts. In Massachusetts, children ages five to seven or up to 4’9″ tall are required to travel in a child safety seat.
  • Children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat.
  • Explain to children they should talk softly and let the driver concentrate on the road.

Avoiding Student Bicycle Accidents:

  • In Massachusetts, children and teens age 16 and under are required to wear bike helmets.
  • Do not allow young children to bicycle to school.
  • Make sure your child has the appropriate experience on a bicycle and is familiar with traveling the route to school.
  • Teach children to ride in the same direction as traffic on the right side of the road.
  • Children and teens bicycling to school should wear bright colored clothing.

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schoolbus.jpgA new pilot program shows drivers in three Massachusetts communities are failing to stop for school buses, a violation of state law and a safety concern as students prepare to head back to school.

The program is underway in Medford, Quincy and Seekonk, where school buses have been equipped with video cameras behind the vehicle’s long stop-sign arm. The cameras capture the license plates of cars which violate the law and cause school bus accidents.

In Medford, the cameras captured 112 motor vehicle violations in 105 days, according to The Boston Globe. Some 57 violations were recorded over 55 days in Quincy while Seekonk had 45 violations over 53 days.

Under Massachusetts law, drivers cannot be issued citations based solely on video evidence. A police officer or bus driver must observe the violation and testify to it. Fines start at $250 and drivers with two or more offenses can have their license revoked.

Massachusetts is one of many states that allow traffic cameras, but they are currently only used to catch toll-evading drivers on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Proposed legislation aims to prevent school bus accidents by allowing cities and towns to submit video footage as evidence.

Drivers can keep children safe and avoid motor vehicle citations by paying close attention this September. The Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck offer these safety tips to prevent school bus accidents:

  • State law requires drivers to stay at least 100 feet behind a school bus at all times.
  • Drive slowly and watch for children walking in the street, especially in areas with no sidewalks.
  • Watch for children playing at bus stops.
  • Yellow flashing lights signal the bus is slowing down to stop.
  • Red flashing lights and an extended arm indicate the bus is stopped to let children on or off.
  • Do not start driving again until the stop arm folds back up and the bus starts moving.
  • Do not attempt to pass a school bus.
  • Watch for children when backing out of your driveway. If you see children, ask them to move to the sidewalk until you drive away.

Click here for the state law on driving near school buses in Massachusetts.

Click here for The Boston Globe article about the new pilot program.
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