The Minnesota Department of Public Safety published its 2009 results from statewide vehicle crashes show that there were 670 incidents involving school buses with four people killed, including one child crossing the bus, and 233 injured as a result. The leading cause? Driver distraction.
No students were killed on board the bus, but one child was killed by the bus while unloading. An elderly pedestrian was hit by a schol bus while in a crosswalk, and two drivers of other vehicles that failed to yield at intersections were killed after being sruck by school buses.
The rates of inattention behind the wheel for both school bus drivers and drivers of other vehicles lead the list of contributing factors. The Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2009 shows that 19.1 percent of 314 crashes attributed to school bus drivers were due to driver distraction. Meanwhile, 19.5 percent of the 522 crashes caused by other drivers were the result of distraction.
Failure to yield right of way ranked second at 17.2 percent for school bus drivers and 13.6 percent of other drivers. Each crash could have at up to two contributing factors attributed to a single driver.
Of the total number of school bus incidents, 78 percent resulted in property damage and more than 21 percent resulted in injuries. While slightly up over the previous year, 2009 recorded the third fewest number of crashes over the past decade.
Overall, the crash report reflects the fewest total motor vehicle crashes statewide since the DPS began publishing the report in 1965. The 73,498 crashes were a 7.5 percent decrease from the 79,095 that occurred in 2008. But school bus crashes increased 2 percent over the same time period, with the most occurring in the months of January, October and December. The ride times of 6 a.m. to 8:59 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5:59 p.m. saw the highest number of crashes at 224 and 220, respectively. The noon to 2:59 p.m. time slot came in third at 111 crashes. No other time period had more than 69 crashes (9 a.m. to 11:59 a.m.).
The number of school bus-related injuries occurring inside the bus and to passengers or drivers in other vehicles were nearly identical (110 and 115, respectively with other eight injuries occurring to pedestrians).
The report included data on bicycle crashes and motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians. The total number of bike crashes decreased by nearly two and a half points to 957 in 2009, the fewest confirmed crashes over the past 10 years since 909 in 2002. In all, 10 bicyclists were killed, down from 13 in 2008. But bike injuries rose 2.2 percent to 963 from 942. The highest rates of injury occurred to children and teens in the age ranges of 10 to 14 (170 total injuries) and 15 to 19 (158 total injuries). The 20- to 24-year age group recorded the third highest number of injuries at 122.
Crashes involving pedestrians rose three percent to 883 from 860, and the number of pedestrians killed and injured also increased to 41 and 880, respectively.