It’s a good thing students at Oak Prairie Junior High School in Homer Township, southwest of Chicago, had just practiced a bus evacuation drill at school, because later that day, on September 14, as they were riding home, their bus driver swerved into a guardrail and continued to drive the bus about 30 feet off of Gougar Road, the Daily Southtown reports.
The bus was carrying 35 student passengers plus the driver at the time of the accident, and no serious injuries were reported, thanks to what was described as an excellent first-responder corps and the maturity of the students. One student was taken to a local hospital and released, and a few reported shoulder pain and were treated by emergency personnel at the scene.
All students were released to the care of their parents, taken back to the school to board another bus home, or taken home by another method.
“We assured (every parent) that safety of our students is our top priority and that we are working with First Student (the bus company) to ensure their safety,” the Southtown quoted Will County School District 92 Superintendent Peter Sullivan as saying. “Our students were unbelievable.”
School bus travel on US roads
Every day in the US, about 480,000 school buses are on the road. With about 12,000 injuries reported annually by children on school buses and about 6–10 deaths, a school bus is one of the statistically safest ways to travel.
More fatalities occur around school buses, though, such as when the bus hits a bicyclist or pedestrian. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has data on all vehicle accidents, including bus crashes. About 134 people die each year in crashes that involve a school vehicle, but only 8 percent of those fatalities happen to bus passengers. Almost three-fourths of school bus-related fatalities are other motorists.
Only Florida, New Jersey, and New York require school bus passengers to wear seat belts while riding the bus, but children are still considered safer, statistically speaking, riding in a school bus than, say, a car driven by a student or a parent.
The National Transportation Safety Board has in the past lobbied Congress to make buses safer by implementing one or more of the following changes:
- oversee the training or licensing of bus drivers more closely
- equip buses with technology like lane-departure alarms and electronic stability control
- make the passenger compartments on buses more secure, say, by adding glazing on windows