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Negligent Driving Causes Deadly School Bus Crashes

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Between 2001 and 2010, there were 1,236 fatal school transportation-related crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA). These crashes involved a school bus or a non-school bus functioning as a school bus, transporting children in school-related activities. An average of 19 school-age kids and pedestrians die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year.

Though school buses typically have one of the safest records of any type of vehicle, when accidents do happen, they can be particularly tragic. Some over the last few years have taken the lives of young students, with drivers of the buses themselves or of other vehicles sometimes held liable for damages.

New York Man Convicted of Manslaughter

On July 3, 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Long Island cement truck driver had been convicted of manslaughter and assault. Forty-five-year-old Raymond Ragen was driving the truck in July 2012 when he allegedly drove into a railroad bridge he knew was too low for his cement mixer. He then collided head-on with a school bus carrying special-needs children. The driver, a 45-year-old father of four, was killed, and the bus attendant left with crippling injuries. Four children were also seriously hurt.

Ragen was arrested on vehicular homicide charges, and was found to have been using his cell phone at the time of the crash. He was also allegedly under the influence of Valium, which he did not have a prescription for. A jury convicted him of manslaughter in the death of the bus driver in April 2014, and Nassau County Judge William Donnino recently sentenced him to up to 15 years in prison.

Other Cases of Negligent Driving

About a year ago, CBS reported that federal accident investigators were considering new safety recommendations based on crashes involving school buses in New Jersey and Florida. The first involved a dump truck slamming into the side of a school bus and killing an 11-year-old girl, and the second involved a semi tractor-trailer hitting a school bus on the rear side, killing one student and injuring four others. An investigation later found that the school bus driver in the first accident was speeding, and under the sedating effects of medication.

Donna M. Engler, a 64-year-old bus driver, was also recently sentenced to three years’ probation after she was found to be negligent when she unintentionally hit and killed a pedestrian in Lower Pottsgrove. The pedestrian was crossing the road when she was struck and killed as Engler made a turn at the intersection. Engler left the scene without stopping, but later contacted police to say she may have been the driver who caused the collision, though she hadn’t seen the pedestrian. Prosecutors stated there were no obstructions at the intersection.

In April 2014, Tampa Bay News reported that one woman died and another was seriously injured when a school bus ran a red light and rear-ended one car and caused it to collide with a Chevy Malibu. The Chevy driver died at the scene, and the other driver was flown to the hospital. The Chevy driver’s daughter notified the school district in May 2014 of the family’s intent to sue for pain and suffering.

According to the NHTSA, between 2003 and 2012, more than half of school bus crashes involved at least one other vehicle, with impacts to the front of the school bus occurring in 49 percent of fatal crashes.