Every day buses travel the length and breadth of San Diego County, transporting residents to and from work and taking tourists around to the area’s many attractions. While bus travel is generally safe, bus accidents are still more commonplace than many people realize. Bus accidents consist of injuries sustained while riding a bus, walking on a street and being hit by a bus, or driving a car and having a bus hit your car. On average 19,000 people are injured annually in bus accidents in the United States. California, unfortunately, is among those states with the highest rate of bus accidents in the country. Municipal buses, like those transporting people to work every morning, are responsible for approximately 37% of bus accidents, while an unfortunately high 39% of bus accidents involve school buses.
Even though bus accidents are not as common as traditional car accidents, they tend to involve a larger number of injuries and more severe injuries. Most charter buses carry at least 40 passengers, while commuter buses can carry even more. When those buses are involved in an accident, there is a greater number of people to sustain a potential injury. In addition, buses lack the safety restraints available in cars. Charter buses are slightly less dangerous, because the passengers are seated and the seats are well-padded. However, a traditional commuter bus will have a significant number of passengers standing. Most commuter buses also have hard metal poles and hard plastic seating, which, when struck, can cause serious injuries. The combination of many hard surfaces, an open environment, and many standing passengers make a commuter bus extremely dangerous during an accident. Finally, because buses are so large, when they strike a pedestrian or a car, they are more likely to do extensive damage and cause more severe injuries than a standard passenger vehicle.
Bus accidents may occur for many reasons. Buses are large, heavy vehicles, which are not easy to maneuver. An inexperienced or poorly trained driver may not be able to handle the more difficult turns and traffic patterns that occur in metropolitan areas like San Diego. Drivers that are overly tired may also cause accidents, because they cannot react quickly enough to other drivers or pedestrians and may even fall asleep at the wheel. Charter bus drivers are particularly susceptible to tiredness and exhaustion, because they are forced to drive extremely long distances, sometimes overnight. Bus companies should normally assign two drivers for long distances, but some may choose to try to save money rather than protect the safety of their passengers. Finally, distractions may prevent a bus driver from giving their full attention to the other vehicles and pedestrians around them. School bus drivers are even more likely to be distracted given the large number of children on their bus talking, playing, and possibly roughhousing.
Bus accident lawsuits are different from other, more traditional vehicle accident lawsuits. Under California law, buses are considered common carriers. A common carrier is a company that offers transportation to the general public without discrimination, usually under license or authority from a governmental body. As a common carrier, buses owe an obligation to provide a higher level of safety to their passengers. In essence, a passenger may have a lawsuit against a bus company for conduct that would not result in a lawsuit if it occurred in a car.