The company that owns the school bus involved in a recent fatal collision north of Chicago has been involved in a number of personal injury lawsuits. The accident has also focused attention on the dangerous intersection where the collision took place, and on the question of whether seat belts should be required for school buses.
The accident occurred April 5 in Lake County, when a school bus collided with a Jeep Cherokee and a Jeep Wrangler at an intersection near Wadsworth. The driver of the Jeep Wrangler was killed; none of the school children had serious injuries. There is a dispute as to whether the bus ran a red light. According to reports, the bus driver is 55 years of age and has been a licensed bus driver for 10 years, with a clean driving record.
According to a report by CBS 2, Durham School Services, the company that owns the bus involved in the accident, has been named as a defendant in three personal injury lawsuits in the past two years. A settlement was reached in one case and the other two are pending. Durham School Services said that safety is the company’s top priority and the company will cooperate fully with authorities investigating the accident.
Public attention has also been brought to the intersection where the accident occurred: the corner of Kilbourne Road and Route 173 near Wadsworth in suburban Lake County. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, between 2004 and 2011, 53 accidents took place at the intersection, with a total of 24 people injured and one killed. It is described as a “high-severity crash” intersection. Traffic lights were installed just last year with the goal of improving safety.
Meanwhile, although the school children on board the bus escaped with only minor injuries, the accident has spurred renewed calls for mandatory seat belts on school buses. State Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, has pushed for new school buses to be equipped with shoulder and lap belts for students. Lang has been working for such legislation for 10 years, with little success.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), school buses are one of the safest transportation methods for school kids. The chance of a fatal crash for children is 60 times greater if they are driving themselves to school or riding with a friend, and riding with parents is still much more dangerous than riding a school bus. The sheer size of school buses allows the force of a crash to be dispersed, and occupants are protected by closely-spaced, heavily padded seats.