A collision between a Bergen County School Bus and a dump truck on Interstate 80 in New Jersey killed a teacher and a student and injured dozens of others on the bus as well as the driver of the dump truck. The school bus, which was on a field trip, collided with the dump truck in a way that the front of the dump truck was sheared off and the school bus rolled after striking the guardrail. According to students interviewed following the accident, many in the bus were left dangling by their seatbelts in the overturned bus.
New Jersey is one of only seven states that require seat belts on school buses. The law proved effective and saved lives by keeping students and teachers secure in their seats. The availability of seat belts in this bus raises the question: why are seat belts not required in all large school buses? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, large buses are designed to dissipate impact forces differently than passenger vehicles, meaning that passengers on buses do not experience the impact with the same violence as those in vehicles. School buses are also built with higher seats and more padding to protect passengers. Based on these factors, seat belts are not required on all school buses under Federal law, those decisions are left to the states.
Whether an individual was using a seat belt is often a question in determining damages in accidents resulting in injury. In this tragedy, the question of whether the students were wearing seatbelts could affect liability.
Currently, investigators are trying to figure out how this could have happened. If negligence was involved, the families of these students could file claims against the at-fault party to hold help liable and seek justice. Hopefully, these students and their families will be able to move forward and get the answers they deserve.