When is it safe to pass a school bus in Ohio?

Being stuck behind a school bus while rushing to work can be frustrating, but school bus safety is more important than shaving a few minutes off your commute time.

From 2007 to 2016, there were 1,282 people of all ages killed in school transportation-related crashes—an average of 128 fatalities per year. Bus drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers on the road, all must obey bus safety rules. In Ohio, drivers must stop at least 10 feet away from a stopped school bus to allow passengers to safely enter or exit the bus. Continue reading “When is it safe to pass a school bus in Ohio?”

School Bus Driver Liability for Injuries

Earlier this year, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments about liability for injuries to children involving school buses. The issue in the case was whether school bus drivers are liable for injuries and fatalities when students do not go straight home after leaving the bus.  Although the court dismissed the case, the general issues are worthy of consideration.

_MG_7919-2The case in question involves a first-grader who left her school bus and ran down the street toward a friend’s house and was struck and seriously injured by a car – after the bus had continued on its route.  The incident occurred in the Village of Cleves, near Cincinnati. Ohio law says that drivers must wait until the student reaches a safe place before moving on. At issue is how long a driver must wait and what is meant by a “safe” place. Although many, including some justices on the lower court, agreed that the law was poorly written, it is the only law available for now.

The Ohio Supreme Court decided that it had “improvidently” accepted this case and dismissed it, sustaining the ruling of the Hamilton County Court of Appeals that the school district was not liable.  Nevertheless, the larger issues about school busses and liability are not new nor are they limited to Ohio.

Do you think school bus drivers should be liable for students after they leave the bus? Share your school bus safety concerns in the comment section below.

School districts across the United States are generally immune from liability in such matters, unless it can be demonstrated that the driver was negligent. Is the driver required to actually supervise a child once he or she is no longer on the bus? Is not providing such supervision a form of negligence?  Is the driver required to escort the child to a safe place, leaving the other children unsupervised on the bus?

Supervision of Students

And what is meant by supervision? In North Carolina, for example, the state Board of Education is considering a requirement that drivers signal students when it is safe to cross the street. What if the driver signals, the students start to cross, and a car speeds around a corner and strikes a student? Is the bus driver liable?

Criminal Negligence vs. Civil Negligence

Like Ohio, the state of Washington requires that school bus drivers be found negligent before they can be held liable for student injuries or deaths. They can be criminally negligent, which means they have broken a law, such as failing to stop at a traffic signal or speeding. A driver could also be proven negligent in a civil case, which requires a lower standard of proof than criminal negligence. This could mean that the driver should have responded to a situation in a way a reasonable person would have and is a tough standard to apply. For example, if a driver suspected that the brakes on the bus were bad, should he or she have kept on driving?

Are Drivers Supposed to Intervene When a Child Is Being Bullied?

What about a child who is bullied on a school bus? Parents in Missouri sued their school district because it allegedly failed to stop their son from being bullied on the school bus, resulting in the boy’s suicide. The parents received a $300,000 settlement from the school district.

Bus Fights

In St. Johns County, Florida, bus drivers are expected to break up fights – IF doing so does not compromise their safety. In other Florida counties, however, drivers are not permitted to touch students in any way, making it difficult to intervene in many situations.

Driver Texting

A Nashville case was pretty straightforward; a driver was found to have been sending and receiving texts while transporting students. The driver has since died, so families cannot file lawsuits against the driver. However, the school district could still be held liable.

Liability for Administering Medication

How far will we go to ensure the safety of students on school buses? Some districts issue EpiPens to drivers so they can administer medication to students experiencing allergic reactions. However, many drivers are afraid they will be found liable if a student dies as a result of an allergic reaction, despite being given the injection. A lawmaker in Pennsylvania introduced a bill that would give drivers immunity from civil lawsuits involving the use of EpiPens.

Other Questions About School Bus Driver Liability

What if drivers are not school district employees? What if the buses are not school district equipment? Who is liable if school transportation is provided by a contractor rather than a school employee? The questions seem endless. This makes it very important for drivers to know the rules of their districts and states regarding operation of buses and their liability for injuries and deaths.

Student Hit While Exiting School Bus

Last week was National School Bus Safety week. The idea began in 1964 and has grown to a national event. Schools and other organizations across the country mark the occasion by distributing safety materials and urging motorists to drive carefully.

Unfortunately, not everyone headed the warnings. On Wednesday, a vehicle ignored school bus warning lights and struck a 15-year-old Perry School District student.

News reports indicate that the high school student had exited the bus and started walking across the street when a silver Chrysler LHS drove around the bus and collided with the boy. He was knocked into the windshield and thrown to the side of the road. Emergency crews initially transported the teen to Madison Medical Center, but his injuries required him to be flown to MetroHealth Medical Center.

As of the time of this writing, neither the name of the victim nor the identity of the driver have been released, pending charges.

School Bus Safety

Always stop for a school bus.

Ohio Revised Code 4511.75 requires all motorists to stop at least 10 feet from a school bus anytime it has stopped to load or unload. When stopped, school buses in Ohio display red flashing lights as well as a stop sign on the side of the bus. Motorists may not resume motion until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving. If driving on a 4-lane roadway, the driver need not stop for a school bus approaching from the opposite direction.

Elk & Elk asks that you remind your child to follow these rules while getting off and on the bus:

  • Always remain in direct eyesight of the bus driver
  • Get to the bus stop in plenty of time
  • Take 10 giant steps back from the curb while waiting for the bus and 10 steps when exiting the bus
  • Never try to get anything left on the bus after exiting
  • Never reach underneath the bus
  • Always follow the driver’s directions for how to cross the street
  • Be alert to traffic and look both ways
  • Always cross in front of the bus, but only when the bus driver signals it is safe to do so

Bus drivers in Ohio are required to file reports with law enforcement when motorists pass them illegally. In some communities, cameras are being used to facilitate this reporting.



Vehicle hits 15-year-old Perry student crossing at bus stop” The News-Herald, October 25, 2013