Generally speaking, school buses are quite safe. Millions of kids ride on them every year and yet there are only five or six deaths annually. And in New Jersey, that safety is increased by a state law that requires children to buckle up while onboard.
But those assurances aren’t enough when a school bus is hit by a truck-particularly not one that was five percent over its 80,000 pound limit, stacked to the brim with asphalt. Such was the case in mid-February, when a school bus carrying 25 kids from Chesterfield Elementary School in Burlington County was struck in the early morning. The truck accident killed an 11-year-old girl and injured 17 others, including the girl’s other two triplet siblings.
The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, but the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has begun investigating, a process expected to take at least a year. Generally NTSB does not get involved with smaller crashes such as this, but they are currently focusing on school bus safety and took a particular interest in the Chesterfield crash.
Preliminary reports show that the driver of the bus had only been on the job for three weeks, and that the driver of the truck had previously had his license revoked for reckless driving (in 2003) but has been in good standing since then. No criminal charges have been filed against either driver as of yet. The intersection where the accident happened is apparently a difficult one, having been the site of 17 accidents since 2007.
Just a few days after the Chesterfield crash, another school bus/truck accident occurred in Fairfield (in Cumberland County). Fortunately, although students were taken to a hospital as a precaution, no one was seriously hurt.
As these crashes indicate, even large vehicles like buses can be mismatched in an accident with a fully-loaded truck. Whenever a truck is involved in an accident, the causes can be difficult to determine, though the outcome is almost always the same-the truck wins, and other drivers lose.
Most accidents aren’t investigated by the NTSB, so answers can be hard to find. That’s why anyone involved in an accident with a truck should turn to the experience and resources of a personal injury attorney to ensure that the cause of the accident is fully investigated and their legal rights to compensation are protected.