School Bus Accidents on Dangerous Rural Roads and Bridges

School Bus Accidents on Dangerous Rural Roads and Bridges

There are many areas of our country where schoolchildren live in rural and farm areas. Their schools are often miles away, and the buses that transport them may have to traverse dirt or one-lane roadways that are not lit when dark and are often crossed by deer and other animals.

Often, these rural roads and bridges are poorly maintained. There are often scarce resources for infrastructure and road maintenance in these areas that may have had little to no service for years. Harsh weather and flooding can render these roads and structures hazardous for any motorist and especially for heavier vehicles such as trucks and school buses.

Accidents on treacherous rural roadways and bridges are bound to happen. A bus that is going a little too fast for the road conditions and fails to negotiate a tight turn or to react in time to a large rock in the road or animal attempting to cross can turn tragic. Sometimes these roads abut steep ravines where there are no guardrails and require the driver to use extreme caution. But at times, the road conditions are too dangerous because of a recent rain or snow and a bus tumbles down the ravine, injuring and sometimes killing its occupants.

Rural bridges face the same dilemma. Many times, these are one lane with little to no room for two vehicles traveling in opposite directions to share. Some of these bridges may not withstand the weight of a school bus after years of deterioration, let alone two vehicles at once, or they may have flimsy railings that will collapse when struck by a vehicle.

The responsibility for maintaining roads and bridges may be the municipality or the state. School children should not be exposed to an unreasonable risk of injury when riding a school bus. School or local officials responsible for road maintenance are obligated to inspect roadways and bridges where school buses have to travel to pick up or unload children. If a roadway is deemed too hazardous, then an alternate route should be found while the hazard is remedied. Warning signs to alert motorists or bus operators to certain hazards should also be in place.

Bridge construction and maintenance are regulated by state and federal laws. If a bridge fails or a bus crashes through a guardrail that should have kept the bus on the road, then the municipality or state may be held liable.

Bringing an injury claim or filing a lawsuit against a public entity requires that you follow certain notice and filing deadlines. Most states require that you first give written notice to the responsible agency or department of the accident within 6-months. You then have to wait for a response or a minimum period of time. If your claim is rejected or no response is given after a certain time, then you can file in court so long as it is within the statute of limitations.

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