Every year, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety publishes statewide vehicle accident data and dedicates one chapter specifically to school bus crashes. Student transporters can benefit from accident data, which often raise red flags about potential dangers like distracted driving.
The “Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2011” shows that the number of school bus crashes increased slightly, from 615 traffic crashes involving at least one bus, compared to 611 in 2010. But the good news is that fewer than 2 percent of all school bus crashes occurred when the school bus stop arm was deployed, showing a reduction in one percentage point from 2010.
Last year there was one fatal school bus crash that involved a school bus colliding with a bicyclist while making a turn, killing the bicycle rider.
While there were 615 school bus crashes in 2011, a few involved more than one school bus, so 621 school buses in total were involved. Officer reports showed there was “no clear contributing factor” for 52 percent of these school bus drivers. However, the two most commonly cited contributing factors were driver inattention or distraction (19 percent) and failure to yield right of way (18 percent).
When driver distraction was cited, 18 percent pointed to the school bus operator and 21.7 percent to other motorists. Driver inattention or distraction was the second most often cited cause of all fatal crashes tracked by OTS for 2011 for every kind of motor vehicle, after illegal or unsafe speed. Recently NHTSA reported that in 2010 more than 3,000 people were killed nationwide in crashes caused by distracted driving.
Another 11.7 percent of Minnesota’s school bus crashes were attributed to bus drivers making improper turns. Zero, one or two factors could be attributed to a single driver, so percentages are based on all contributing factors cited.
The school bus chapter also features eight tables sorting the crash data by time of day, by month, by traffic control device and by the types of injuries sustained as well as victims’ age and gender. Children between the ages of 5 and 19 represented 46 percent of the people injured in school bus crashes. Of the 98 young victims, 1 was a pedestrian, 75 were bus riders and 22 rode in another vehicle.
The most dangerous situation, and the only one causing a fatality last year, was when only certain motorists at an intersection had a stop sign. In contrast, only five injuries occurred when all motorists had a stop sign, as compared to 62 injuries when all did not.