This case takes place in New York and involves a school bus involved in an accident that resulted in serious injuries to several students. The school bus was traveling with members of a high school basketball team who were returning from a game at the time of the incident. The bus was driving on a street that had a 45 mile-an-hour speed limit, and ran through a wooded area. The bus had just pulled around a turn when it hit several deer that had been standing in the roadway. It was at this point that the driver lost control of the bus, which careened into the woods on the side of the road and impacted a large tree. Due to the force of the impact, several students were thrown from their seats and sustained serious injuries. It is alleged that the school bus should have been equipped with seat belts, and that the presence of seat belts would have prevented many of the injuries suffered by students as a result of the accident.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Are you familiar with school bus seat belt laws?
- 2. Do you have the expertise to discuss the pros and cons of seat belts on school buses?
- 3. Are you familiar with the concept of compartmentalization?
Expert Witness Response E-009104
I have a great deal of familiarity with school bus seat belt laws and compartmentalization. Prior to 2005, school bus seat belt laws were not enforced, and no one enforces the wearing of the seat belts or how they’re fastened. Schools can not demand that students wear seat belts on buses, and there is even a clause that state that the board of education can override a ruling for students to wear seat belts on buses. Older buses will never have and are never required to have seat belts if they were made before 2015. As far as I’m concerned, given the brief description, this is a case definitely more favorable for the defendant. The bus company is conforming with the federal law and there is really no responsibility to retrofit a school bus with seat belts. As for compartmentalization, if these seats are close enough to one another and rigidly mounted to the floor, that also voids the need for seat belts.
Expert Witness Response E-010185
School bus seat belt law is somewhat of a specialty of mine. I authored an article citing about 30 reasons why lap belts are a dangerous approach for large school buses, a position that the state in question has taken to this day, such as when they mandated the installation of three-point seat belts on all new school buses of every size. Additionally, the NHTSA also supports the use of seat belts on school bus seats. If a pre-2004 school bus in this state had any type of seat belt on it before 2004 — and none did — it would almost certainly have been a lap belt, and in general, these would have been even more dangerous than three-point seat belts. Ironically, in this accident, three-point seat belts would have almost certainly caused more damage than a lap belt or no seat belts at all. I am very well qualified to discuss the pros and cons of all seat belt law. Additionally, I am very well aware of compartmentalization and have worked on a number of similar cases to this.