In the 2016-17 school year, six loading and unloading fatalities were attributed to a vehicle passing the school bus. File photo courtesy NHTSA

In the 2016-17 school year, six loading and unloading fatalities were attributed to a vehicle passing the school bus. File photo courtesy NHTSA

Eight students were killed in school bus loading and unloading accidents in the last school year, according to the latest report on fatalities of this type.

The total of eight school bus danger zone deaths in the 2016-17 school year is double the number of the prior school year, 2015-16, which saw four such fatalities. There were also four in 2014-15.

The national school bus loading and unloading fatality statistics are collected annually by the Kansas State Department of Education’s (KSDE’s) School Bus Safety Unit.

In the 2016-17 school year, six of the loading and unloading fatalities (75% of the total) were attributed to a vehicle passing the school bus. In the other two incidents (25% of the total), the students were struck by their own bus — one by the right front wheel, and the other by the right dual rear wheels.

For three of the six passing vehicle fatalities, the school bus had not yet fully stopped, so the amber warning lights were activated, but the red lights and stop arm were not. Here is the KSDE report’s narrative on one of those incidents, which involved two fatalities:

“Two cousins, a 6-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, were running across the highway to meet the school bus. An oncoming tractor-trailer struck and killed both students. The school bus had not come to a complete stop and was displaying the eight-way amber lights.”

That incident took place in Virginia. The other school bus stop fatalities in 2016-17 occurred in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

One of the by-own-bus deaths stemmed from a student’s backpack getting snagged in the door of the bus. Here’s the narrative on that incident, which happened in Massachusetts:

“A 9-year-old girl was unloading from the bus when her backpack was caught in the service door. The student was dragged for a distance prior to the backpack coming loose. The student was struck and killed by the right rear dual wheels of the bus.”

(As reported earlier this month, the school bus driver in the Massachusetts incident pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail.)

Here are other details on the 2016-17 school bus loading and unloading fatalities from the KSDE report:

• The students who were killed ranged in age from 6 years old to 16 years old.
• Six of the students were under age 10.
• Four were boys, and four were girls.
• Seven of the eight fatalities occurred in daylight, while one was in darkness.
• Weather conditions were described as clear in seven of the fatal incidents and cloudy in one of them.
• Road conditions were dry in seven of the incidents. The other one took place with snow/slush on the road.
• Seven of the fatalities occurred in rural areas, and one was in an urban area.

The KSDE school bus loading/unloading survey is a collection of fatality accident records provided by the state agencies responsible for school transportation and/or accident records. Onboard fatalities are not included.

The survey is described as “an effort to raise awareness of the dangers involved in loading and unloading school children,” and the ongoing fatalities show “the continuing need for forceful, advanced instruction to school bus drivers and students, as well as the need to increase our efforts to thoroughly inform drivers across the country about the requirements of the school bus stop law.”

To view the full report for 2016-17 and previous school years, go to the KSDE website.

About the author
Thomas McMahon

Thomas McMahon

Executive Editor

Thomas had covered the pupil transportation industry with School Bus Fleet since 2002. When he's not writing articles about yellow buses, he enjoys running long distances and making a joyful noise with his guitar.

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