Buses are one of the safest ways to transport large numbers of people. Their size and slow-moving nature mean that these vehicles tend to not be involved in many mishaps. When an accident does occur, however, there can be serious consequences.
With no restraints to hold occupants in place, injuries can be serious, especially in school bus incidents involving children. Whether transporting children to schools or crews to worksites, businesses that ply large transportation vehicles need a response plan in the event of an accident. With school bus incidents, in particular, it is best to seek professional guidance.
While it’s important to ensure that drivers have adequate training and do not ever drive while fatigued and to ensure that buses are well-maintained, it also makes sense to have a plan in place in the event of an accident. There needs to be extensive training for appropriate response and behavior following an incident.
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Drivers should keep their heads
When the driver of a bus involved in an accident is uninjured and able to respond, it’s important that he or she remain calm and collected. Not only should every attempt be made to quickly move the vehicle to the shoulder of the street away from traffic, but the driver should also put up reflectors at several points extending to a hundred feet behind the vehicle.
The driver should remember that he still represents the company; everything that it’s possible to do to help the injured should be done. When law enforcement arrives, there should be as much cooperation offered as possible. It’s crucial to make no admission of fault, even while speaking to a company representative over a phone call. Such admissions may be overheard. Letting slip a mere apology may be construed as an admission of guilt.
Help should be sought immediately
While calling 911 is easy enough, the unavailability of a working cell phone may be a challenge. All buses and drivers should have backup units.
In the time that it takes for help to arrive, the driver or other company staff on board should offer first-aid. In the event of a lawsuit, an opposing attorney might raise the question of adequate preparedness in the form of training and equipment. It’s important to be prepared.
Equipping buses with dashcams is a cost-effective way to record footage usable as evidence to present in court. These cameras are cheaply available today and offer excellent returns on investment. Whether an ill-fated bus is equipped or not, however, it’s important for drivers to do everything possible to gather witness information and take as many pictures as possible with quality cameras.
If there are third-party witnesses, contact information should be obtained. If possible, information about other parties actually involved in the accident should be recorded as well. Drivers should be educated in the process of obtaining such witness information, however. It is never a good idea to be seen spending too much time speaking with witnesses. Such efforts can be seen as an attempt at coercion.
Close-up photos of every part of the bus, the surroundings, and the other vehicles involved in the accident, are important. Video evidence is vital, as well, because it is able to capture the sound that may turn out to be of relevance. It’s important to do all this even when the other party doesn’t seem interested in pressing charges. Injuries can show up long after an accident, and lawsuits could appear out of nowhere.
Make a record
The driver should make a detailed voice record of the sequence of events that led to the accident, hopefully within the hour. Important details can be forgotten very quickly.
It’s just as important to know what not to do
Drivers on the scene of an accident need to know that carelessness can have serious consequences. Arguments with any party on the scene should be avoided. It’s important, also, to never leave the scene until police and emergency responders arrive.
Businesses involved in transportation face a unique set of responsibilities and need to take them seriously. A little preparedness is all it takes to protect against unnecessary liability.
Declan Ashton works in the insurance industry, covering a range of job roles over the years. He discusses legal and insurance matters in his transport-related articles.