In response to the horrific Humboldt Broncos bus crash in April, 2018, many questions have been asked regarding how this devastation could have been prevented.

As you may recall, a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan. As a result of the accident, sixteen people were killed and 13 individuals were injured.

Transport Canada (the government agency that controls road safety standards and regulations) has announced that as of September 1, 2020 all newly built highway buses will be required to have seat belts.

Seatbelts will be mandatory on medium and large highway buses starting September 1, 2020. Medium and large buses are described as those weighing over 4,536 kg.  Buses under 4,536 kg, with the exception of school buses, must have lap/shoulder belts in all passenger seats.

Transport Canada reports that seat belts can improve safety by preventing passengers from being ejected during a collision or rollover.

The Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, stated:

We’ve all heard the message to buckle up over the years, and I think it’s time we brought this approach to highway buses too. By having seat belts on highway buses, we can help reduce injuries in severe collisions, such as rollovers, and improve safety for everyone.

It is estimated that the installation of seat belts on buses could save an average of one to two lives per year.

In the U.S., new tour buses and those buses that travel between cities require seatbelts under federal law as of November 2016. This law does not apply to city transit buses or school buses. In Britain, similar seat belt laws have been in place since 2001.

REQUIREMENTS WILL NOT APPLY TO SCHOOL BUSES

School buses are considered the safest form of child transportation.

According to Transport Canada’s National Collision Database, there were 3,684 injuries and 11 deaths in crashes on school buses in Canada between 2003 to 2012.

In comparison, there were 1.34 million injuries and 22,397 deaths in crashes in all other vehicles in Canada during this same time period.

Research informs us that children are 16 times more likely to be killed walking to school compared to taking a school bus.

The new seat belt requirements announced by Canada Transport will not apply to school buses as these buses are already designed to protect school children in an accident. However, school bus operators may install seat belts voluntarily as long as they meet Transport Canada requirements.

Since the 1970s, all school buses require occupant protection features. These buses have unique roof strength, body joint strength, and compartmentalization requirements. The high back padded seats that are closely spaced together protect passengers without requiring seat belts. When a school bus is hit from the front or the rear, children are protected by the “compartment”, the padded seat back absorbs the forward energy of the child seated behind, in a similar manner that ornaments are protected in their boxes by paper dividers. The child’s body slides forward and hits the seat back in a manner so as to distribute the force of the impact over the entire upper body (without a seat belt). The four elements required of compartmentalization include:

  • Seats with high backs;
  • Seats filled with energy-absorbing material;
  • Seats placed close together to form compartments; and
  • Strong seat anchorages.

Some additional reasons that school buses fare better on our roadways is that school buses are highly visible and their drivers are highly skilled and trained. Furthermore, school buses are higher than other vehicles and when a collision occurs a motor vehicle will typically collide below the floor line of the bus.

WHO CAN BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR A BUS ACCIDENT?

If you or a loved one have been involved in a bus accident, you may have a legal right to seek compensation through a personal injury claim if the motor vehicle accident was caused by someone’s negligence (failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another).

There are several parties that could potentially be held liable for any injuries suffered as a result of a bus accident, depending on the circumstances. This could include the following parties:

  • Bus Company (is responsible to follow laws and regulations, hire properly trained drivers, and maintain the vehicles appropriately);
  • Bus Driver (is responsible to follow the rules of the road and refrain from texting, speeding, or other reckless behaviour);
  • School Board (may be responsible for injuries students suffer while at school or being transported by a school bus);
  • Third Party Driver (may be responsible for any negligent actions that caused the accident, such as rear-ending the bus); and/or
  • Bus Manufacturer (may be responsible if a defective part caused the accident as there is a legal obligation to produce products that do not harm consumers).

If you or a loved one have been injured in a bus accident, you likely have many questions. Please contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Jasmine Daya & Co. to help answer all of your questions and determine whether you have a case. We offer free consultations for new clients. Contact us online or call our office to make an appointment at 416-967-9100.