Ontario School Bus and Transit Bus Accidents: Who’s at Fault?

 Every fall, 800 000 Ontario students once again start taking the bus to school every day – and that’s not counting the large number who use public transit to get there.

With that many buses on the road, it would be impossible for everyone to get though the year without some bumps and bruises – or, in some cases, more serious injuries.

According to statistics gathered by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and displayed at their helpful online School Bus Safety Resource Guide. Over the course of the Ministry’s five-year school bus accident study (conducted between 1990 and 1995), a typical Ontario school year saw more than 1000 road collisions involving school buses. More than 100 – and sometimes even more than 200 – students were injured, per year, were injured while inside school vehicles.

Similar sorts of injuries can occur on both school buses and public transit buses. The driver might stop suddenly, causing riders to fall forward and hurt themselves. Horseplay on the bus, allowed to continue by a negligent driver, might result in a child hitting his head and becoming injured. If any bus is involved in a collision, that jarring impact is likely to injure the bus’s occupants.

If you or your child is involved with an accident while riding a school or public transit vehicle, you are probably not the ones at fault. A number of parties are responsible, and depending on the circumstances of the injury, may be obligated under law to provide compensation:

  • Government bodies (MTO, Transport Canada, etc.) are responsible for putting appropriate safety guidelines in place. MTO is responsible for deploying new safety equipment and ensuring that school buses are properly equipped with it.
  • School boards and their transportation officials are responsible for administering and monitoring school transportation plans. This includes identifying safety issues and adjusting transportation policies accordingly.
  • All bus operators are required to adhere to the Highway Traffic Act and the Public Vehicles Act, following all the safety regulations found in those acts. School bus drivers have an added responsibility: they must ensure safe daily operation of the school bus, including frequent inspections of the bus.
  • Other motorists must obey traffic laws, particularly in dealing with school buses. If they don’t, they could be liable.

Parents are also responsible for educating themselves and their children about bus safety. In the Ottawa area, the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority offers free bus safety materials. They also present educational classes at the start of each school year, for both parents and students.

One of the best ways you can prevent school bus injuries is to be a smart motorist. Stop at least 20 meters away from a stopped school bus, and stay there until it has finished loading. Trying to pass any kind of bus is unsafe – remember that our children’s safety is up to all of us.

If you or your child has been involved in a bus accident – whether it was a school or public transit vehicle – and you’d like more information, contact the Ottawa injury lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth by email [email protected] or telephone 613 233-4529.

About the Author: Brenda Hollingsworth

Brenda Hollingsworth co-founded Ottawa’s Auger Hollingsworth in 2005 with her husband Richard Auger. Together, their mission was to create a personal injury law firm for Eastern Ontario that is unrivalled in the province for customer service and legal expertise. Brenda was named an Ottawa Business Journal Forty Under 40 award recipient and took home the Women’s Business Network’s Businesswoman of the Year award in the Professional category. She was also recognized as one of Ottawa Life Magazine’s “Top 50 People in the Capital.” She is often quoted as an expert and has appeared in media outlets such as CTV, The Globe and Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Sun Media, CBC, Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, CFRA and many legal publications.

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