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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Indiana School Bus Accident Raises Seat Belt Concerns

7 comments

A bus driver and 5-year-old girl were killed and at least 10 students injured in a school bus accident on Indianapolis’ south side when the bus driver hit a support pillar underneath an overpass. Four children were extricated from the bus; a boy was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The bus had passed its state inspection in January; no mechanical problems seemed to have been a factor. Although it was raining lightly, investigators are not sure if the wet roadways caused the accident. Was the bus driver distracted, reckless, or careless? Some reports say the 60-year-old bus driver may have suffered from a heart attack.

The parents of the 5-year-old girl have filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that their daughter’s death was a result of negligence by Miller Transportation and the bus driver. The suit also alleges the company failed to “discover, determine, and/or monitor the health conditions” of the bus driver. Their attorney said the child’s death illustrates the need for seat belts on all Indiana school buses. At least three other families have also filed lawsuits alleging that the bus was unsafe because it did not have seat belts.

Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says school buses are safe because of their size, and what’s called “compartmentalization,” the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly disagrees. Every other vehicle on the road is equipped with seatbelts. Why do we spend years teaching our children? How effective can we enforce the use of seatbelts in our own vehicles when we send them on the school bus without them? And, why do we have laws requiring us to buckle our seat belts in passenger vehicles, but there are no requirements for seat belts on school buses? Could it be MONEY OVER SAFETY? Absolutely!

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

7 Comments

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  1. Thomas woolum says:
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    Will the seat belt law require lap and shoulder belts for students or just lap belts for students in indiana

  2. Mark Bello says:
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    Nothing is known yet. I recommend you contact your state representative and state senator and tell them you want seatbelts installed on school buses in your state. Regards, Mark

  3. Trent Gibson says:
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    While I am moving toward a favorable opinion of seat belts in school buses, I must tell you that it is a very complicated decision and I promise you that it is not just a “MONEY OVER SAFETY” decision.

    Many factors are involved here.
    1. School buses are completely different from most vehicles. The very large capacity means that in accidents that would require quick evacuation, seatbelts may hinder rescue attempts by drivers. The two most horrific school bus accidents, one a fire in Kentucky, and another involving a crash into a lake, are on people’s minds when it comes to seat belts. Is this enough to say no to seat belts? I doubt it. But as I state earlier I am only taking issue with your quick assumption that it was about money.

    2. Many anti-seat belt transportation officials have complained to me about the use of the seat belt as a weapon, or at least a means of antagonism on the bus. Anyone who has tried to drive a bus can understand that the control of 55 students when your back is turned is something we would not wish on even the most veteran teacher.

    3. Another concern is if a bus has seat belts will the driver be held liable if students do not wear them and an injury occurs. Not an insurmountable problem, but this certainly shows that those with reservations are not just thinking about money.

    4. Let’s say it is about money. If so, I can promise you that it is not money that is going into any transportation official’s pocket (contractors excepted because I don’t know enough about it). It is money that is used for teachers to teach our children, more buses to ease overcrowding concerns, aids for special needs students, books and supplies for our children. So okay, maybe it is about money, but it is more about the cost of what that money could have been spent for.

    So, although I am closer to your position than this post may lead you to believe, I do want to let you know that reducing complicated issues like this to an oversimplified assumption is not productive.

    I think a more thoughtful approach would yield better results. There are well thought out reasons for keeping seat belts out of large buses, but inspite of those reasons it is still something we should do.

    I could spend a couple thousand characters talking about why it is a good idea in spite of… but…

    Thanks for reading.

  4. Mark Bello says:
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    Trent: Thanks for the very thoughtful response. You are absolutely correct in pointing out that my “money over safety” comment was too simplistic. I agree that there are important financial issues facing all school administrators; I certainly do not believe that administrators are denying seatbelts in buses so that they can “pocket” the money. I also agree that points 1-3 in your response are valid considerations (although most safety experts will opine that the concerns set forth in point 1 are trumped by the safety value of seatbelt use in preventing injuries in more common accidents, rear end or side impact collisions, for instance). I do believe that, overall, children will be safer on buses if they are buckled up and safety is my bottom line. Thanks again, Mark

  5. Avenger says:
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    . I think putting rseatbelts on the current school bus/bench seat sign would be like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. The real solution is to redesign school buses to more closely resemble commerical buses. This means individual seats, with higher backs and/or head rests. The problem with this solution is that it would make it virtually impossible for the bus driver to monitor what is going on behind him and necessitate the use of a second person on the bus, a monitor so to speak, to keep the little hoodlums in check.

    I think here legal precedent gets in the way of innovation. For better or worse, the legal parameters for school bus injuries have been set. Any innovation would generate a new round of litigation, as no safety measures can prevent everything bad from happening.

    The first injury that occurred that wouldn’t have occurred in the old yellow school bus would generate a lawsuit with allegations of gross negligence, criminal misconduct and all the other happy horse manure we see so often alleged in negligence complaints

  6. Clint says:
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    Money over safety, without a doubt. It’s sad to say but if this doesn’t cause a stir or a problem within our society, I don’t see the problem being fixed. The obvious answer is to implement and install seatbelts within all school buses but what exactly will need to happen until this becomes mandatory?

  7. Clint says:
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    Money over safety, without a doubt. It’s sad to say but if this doesn’t cause a stir or a problem within our society, I don’t see the problem being fixed. The obvious answer is to implement and install seatbelts within all school buses but what exactly will need to happen until this becomes mandatory?