School bus crashes killed 109 people throughout the country in 2019, according to the National Safety Council, based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA defines a school bus-related crash as any crash that involves a school bus, or another vehicle functioning as a school bus, transporting children to or from school or school-related activities. Most of the fatalities occurred between 7 and 7:59 a.m. and 3 and 3:59 p.m. There are additional crashes that result in non-fatal injuries. Several months ago one student was injured in a Carroll County school bus crash.
Most states, including Maryland, do not currently require seat belts on large school buses. Only eight states—New York, New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Nevada, and California—require them. The NHTSA requires seat belts for smaller school buses but until recently, had not provided a recommendation for larger buses. The agency has contended that children are protected by the school bus’s design in a crash. In 2018, the agency recommended that all new large school buses be equipped with both lap and shoulder seat belts. Other states have introduced legislation seeking to make seat belts mandatory. Some states have been dissuaded from requiring seat belts because of the high cost of doing so.
If there is a school bus involved in a Maryland traffic accident, there may be additional barriers to suing a school bus driver or the school district. Claims made against a public school district require that the claimant first provide notice of the claim to the municipality or the state, depending on the case, within a certain time period after the injury. The notice must advise the defendant of the facts serving as the basis for the complaint and the specific damages alleged. In addition, a school district may raise the defense of immunity. Immunity limits the ability of people to sue state and local governments in court. Generally, Maryland law protects school districts and their employees from being sued unless they are carrying out certain duties.