TODAY'S QUESTION: Does safety on school buses need to be improved?

Friday, August 6, 2010 | 12:05 p.m. CDT; updated 4:44 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Thursday school bus crash near Gray Summit killed one high school student and resulted in 42 other students being taken to the hospital.

Two school buses crashed into a pickup truck and semi truck that had already collided in front of them. According to the Missourian article, the driver of the pickup truck was killed on impact and the truck itself was smashed beyond recognition.

School buses are said to be the safest transportation to and from school, but in 2005, USA Today reported that an average of 20 students a year are killed in school bus-related accidents. What's more, a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics says that school bus-related accidents send about 17,000 children to emergency rooms every year.

The 2005 school bus accident in Liberty, Mo., that sent 23 students to the hospital, many with life-threatening injuries, was among the accidents that triggered the call for seat belts in school buses.

Alan Ross, president of the National Coalition for School Bus Safety, told USA Today, "School buses are old-fashioned, outdated and don't give children the benefit of current safety techniques."

According to the Missourian, the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating Thursday's pileup and is looking into whether seat belts would have helped. The NTSB is also considering using accident-avoidance technology that would warn bus drivers of impending slowdowns and would automatically apply the bus's breaks.

Does safety on school buses need to be improved?

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Julie Senft August 7, 2010 | 10:04 p.m.

There is legislation being considered in the WI Assembly to improve safety on school buses by not allowing students to sit in the last two seats on the bus. This legislation was brought forward by Rep. Louis Molepske on behalf of our son, David, who was killed in 2006 when a semi rear-ended the school bus David was riding (home) from school. Clearly the situations are entirely different, but our children are our most precious resource: if they aren't safe on the school bus, where are they safe? We must do everything in our power to protect them before yet another tragic death occurs.

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Ellis Smith August 8, 2010 | 6:08 a.m.

From what has been published it appears that the pickup truck and both school buses were following the vehicle in front of each of them too closely. When each needed to stop, sufficient space wasn't available. This is a known cause of accidents on Interstate highways.

If that's correct, then while the death of one student (and other student injuries) might be related to the design of the buses, this was an operator (driver) issue.

As far as vehicle type is concerned, it's worth noting that the overall performance of school buses has been good as far as fatalities are concerned.

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