TOPEKA, Kan. — There were 20 student deaths attributed to school bus “danger zone” accidents during the 2004-05 school year, a 122 percent increase over the previous year.
The 20 deaths were the highest since the 1999-2000 school year, when 22 children were killed in danger zone accidents, those occurring around the bus in the loading and unloading areas.
The statistics are collected annually by Larry Bluthhardt, director of the Kansas State Department of Education’s School Bus Safety Education Unit.
During the 2004-05 school year, 14 of the children were killed by their own bus, while six were killed by a vehicle passing the bus. Of the 14 killed by their own bus, five were near the front of the bus and nine were near the rear.
Generally, children killed in danger zone accidents are young. The 2004-05 school year was no exception. Fourteen of the 20 children were 6 years old or younger. The oldest were 14. By gender, 15 of the children were female and five were male.
Fifteen states reported deaths in the loading and unloading zones. Only three states — Florida, Georgia and Missouri — reported more than one death. Florida had four fatalities, while Georgia and Missouri each had two.
Seventeen of the accidents took place in the afternoon, while three occurred in the morning. Most of the deaths, 12, took place in urban areas. Eight were reported in rural areas.
The accidents tended to occur late in the week. Fifteen of the 20 deaths were recorded on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Only five took place on Monday or Tuesday.
Fourteen accidents occurred under clear skies; the other six took place in cloudy, rainy or foggy weather.
More than half of the deaths took place during cold-weather months. Twelve of the deaths occurred during December, January, February and March. The deadliest months were January and March, each of which saw four children killed.
Despite the relatively high number recorded for the 2004-05 school year, danger zone deaths have been generally declining. Since the 1999-2000 school year, the number of annual deaths has averaged 14.2. Over the 35 years that this information has been collected, 1,131 fatalities have been reported.