Severe Risks Linked to Bus Accidents

May 23


Peter Kent

Peter Kent

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Each year, thousands of Americans are involved in bus or public transit collisions. Navigating the aftermath of such accidents can be challenging, but several national government entities are working on new technologies to reduce traffic accidents involving buses and public transit.


The Financial Toll of Bus Accidents

In 1998,Severe Risks Linked to Bus Accidents Articles the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) estimated that the total cost of bus accidents nationwide reached nearly $870 million annually. While the number of incidents declined over a ten-year period into 2001, the number of injuries remained constant or even increased since then (FTA).

Rising Ridership and Increased Risks

Millions of individuals will board public transportation this year for various reasons. As public transportation becomes more popular, the risk of being involved in a bus accident and sustaining injuries increases. The 2004 SSO Annual Report from the FTA found that while ridership had increased significantly over five years, fatalities were at their highest in six years, reaching 57% in 2004 alone (FTA 2004 SSO Annual Report).

Factors Contributing to Bus Accidents

A study by the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) and the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida identified several factors contributing to bus crashes:

  • Location of stop
  • Roadway surface type
  • Weather conditions
  • Traffic conditions
  • Operator status (regular operator, mini-run, extra board, supervisor, etc.)
  • Transit vehicle movement prior to and during the accident
  • Vehicle defects at the time of the accident and last preventive maintenance
  • Movements of other vehicles during or prior to the collision
  • Evasive action taken by the driver
  • Passenger movement during or prior to the accident
  • Pedestrian or cyclist movement prior to and during the accident
  • Observed conditions of other drivers/pedestrians/cyclists/passengers at the time of the accident
  • Additional contributory factors

Case Study: The 2007 Bus Accident

In March 2007, a bus accident that killed five student athletes was attributed to poor roadway signage. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended improving highway signage to be clearer and more consistent. However, this is just one step, and more comprehensive measures are needed to protect pedestrians, other drivers, and bus/transit passengers (NTSB).

Improving Bus Safety

Currently, not all states require their transit systems to report and produce system safety program plans. The NCTR is working with several states to develop more significant bus accident data and tracking research. However, more substantial safety measures are needed to protect current passengers and vehicular drivers.

National Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI)

The FTA, in collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is devising a plan to implement improved technology to decrease accidents. This plan is known as the National Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI). In Pittsburgh, the implementation of new safety equipment, including IVI, led to an 80% reduction in claims after the bus authority adopted these measures (DOT).

IVI Transportation Plan Highlights

  • 42 state and local transit initiatives were on the ballots in November 2002.
  • More than 120 transportation corridors are seeking funding for the IVI plan.
  • Lane assistance technology, part of the IVI transportation plan, may reduce the cost of an automated guideway transit (AGT) system by up to 20%. An AGT commonly costs approximately $100 million.

Steps to Reduce Bus Accident Risks

Individuals can take the following steps to reduce the risk of injury in a bus accident:

  • Do not stand on a moving bus without holding onto proper safety bars or straps.
  • Sit up straight on the bus.
  • Avoid activities that might distract the bus driver.
  • Do not hang items or limbs out of windows.
  • Keep voices low and avoid loud, distracting conversations.
  • Teach children to behave properly on the bus and avoid throwing, running, or horseplay.

Additionally, avoid driving in bus lanes or designated bus stops and drive courteously but defensively. If standing or walking near a bus stop or bus lane, stay as far away from the designated bus area as possible.

Seeking Help After a Bus Accident

Individuals involved in a bus collision may feel lost and alone. Seeking medical attention and legal consultation can help return to normalcy. An experienced bus safety and vehicular accident attorney can offer insight into developing litigation to retrieve monetary compensation for damages caused during an accident. Many law firms provide free legal consultations to ease the distress of developing a lawsuit after a traumatic ordeal.


Bus accidents pose severe risks, and while efforts are being made to improve safety, much work remains. By understanding the factors contributing to these accidents and taking proactive steps, individuals can reduce their risk of injury. Seeking professional help after an accident can also provide much-needed support and guidance.