Do Icy Road Conditions Cause More Bus Accidents?

Icy Bus

Buses are similar to large trucks in that they are significantly larger and heavier than the average passenger vehicle. In fact, a fully loaded school bus can weigh up to 42,000 pounds compared with the average passenger vehicle, which generally weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Unfortunately, when a passenger vehicle and a bus are involved in a car accident, the consequences can be devastating and even deadly. Like truck accidents, owing to the sheer size and weight of the bus compared with the passenger vehicle, the occupants of the passenger vehicles tend to suffer much more severe and even fatal personal injury if they are involved in a bus accident. Inclement weather, including slick, icy roads, can significantly increase the risk of a bus accident, endangering the lives of the motorists who are in the vicinity of the bus, as well as the passengers who are riding on the bus. If you are seriously injured in a bus accident that is caused by icy road conditions, you are urged to contact a lawyer experienced in personal injury cases as soon as possible. 

What Precautions Should Be Taken While Driving a Bus in Winter?

When roads are slick with ice, driving conditions can become treacherous, particularly for a large bus that is filled with passengers. Larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, require significantly more road space to slow down and come to a complete stop. Now that winter has arrived and temperatures have dropped, bus drivers have a responsibility to take extra safety precautions to prevent a serious bus accident, including those caused by icy road conditions. To prepare for the winter weather and the increased risk of accidents associated with slippery, icy roadways, bus companies and their drivers are urged to take the following safety precautions:

  • Check the weather report. Bus drivers should check the weather report every day so that they know what to expect when they get behind the wheel. Icy road conditions will require bus drivers to use extreme caution, reduce their driving speed, and pay close attention to other vehicles in the vicinity. This will also give them the opportunity to plan alternate routes that may have safer road conditions.
  • Slow down. This is particularly important for school bus drivers who are carrying a bus full of children. Bus drivers must always follow the posted speed limit. However, when roads are covered in ice, bus drivers should drive well below the speed limit and use extra caution when driving in school zones, loading zones, or bus stops. In addition, bus drivers should leave extra following distance between the bus and the vehicle in front of it.
  • Keep the bus well maintained. Bus companies and bus drivers must ensure that the vehicle is in good condition, particularly in the winter months. This means making sure that the tires are in good condition, the brakes are in good working order, and the headlights and taillights are functioning properly. If any fluids need to be filled or replaced, this should be done before operating the bus in inclement weather.
  • Drive defensively. Although bus drivers should always drive defensively, particularly when driving in school zones, this is particularly important when driving during inclement weather, including when roads are covered in ice. Use extra caution, pay close attention to the other vehicles on the road, avoid using high beams during foggy conditions, and be extremely careful when driving over bridges and overpasses as they tend to freeze before other driving surfaces.
  • Keep the windshield clear. Snow, ice, or other debris that collects on the windshield can impact visibility. Make sure that the windshield wiper blades are in good condition and that the bus’s defroster is working properly.
  • Use the brakes appropriately. Never slam on the brakes when the roads are covered in snow or ice. This could cause the bus to start skidding, increasing the risk of a serious accident. 

What Are the Top Causes of Bus Accidents?

Slippery, icy road conditions certainly increase the risk of bus accidents, including school buses, shuttle buses, and coach buses. In addition to inclement weather conditions, the following are some of the most common causes of bus accidents:

  • Bus company negligence: Even though motor coach buses transport roughly the same number of passengers as the airline industry each year, bus inspection protocols are not nearly as strict. Too often bus companies do not follow federal regulations that are in place to keep passengers and other motorists safe. In addition, there are far too many older school buses or motor coaches that are not equipped with life-saving seat belts and other safety equipment. 
  • Bus driver negligence: Common examples of bus driver negligence include distracted driving, speeding, and drunk driving. Drowsy driving is also common among bus drivers. Like truck drivers, bus drivers are required to follow hours of service laws that prevent drivers from staying behind the wheel for too long without taking a break. Unfortunately, these regulations are not always followed. Studies have shown that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, particularly when the vehicle being driven is a large bus.
  • Blind spots: Large vehicles such as trucks and buses have larger blind spots than regular passenger vehicles. Buses do have mirrors that are meant to eliminate blind spots, but bus drivers are expected to pay attention to other vehicles in the vicinity and regularly check their mirrors so that they know if another vehicle is about to pass the bus or change lanes.
  • Mechanical failure: Ongoing vehicle maintenance is crucial to owning and safely operating a bus. Failure to do so can significantly increase the risk of an accident, particularly if the bus has worn or faulty parts. Proper maintenance should include inspecting and servicing the brakes, tires, lights, steering, safety equipment, warning signals, and suspension.
  • Other drivers: In some cases, other motorists fail to obey the rules of the road, including when the roads are slippery with ice. For example, if another driver is tailgating, changing lanes without signaling, or cutting off a bus driver, this can cause a serious bus accident, for which the driver in the passenger vehicle would be liable.

What Can Motorists Do to Avoid a Bus Accident Related to Icy Conditions?

Anytime you are driving during less-than-ideal weather conditions, you are urged to use extra caution. Icy roads can be particularly dangerous if you hit an icy patch travelling at a high speed. It is highly recommended that you make safety a priority when driving on icy roads, and that you take extra precautions when driving in the vicinity of a large truck or bus. By keeping the following safety tips in mind, you can avoid a serious bus accident:

  • Avoid the blind spots: Buses have blind spots directly in front of the bus and behind the bus, as well as on either side. If you cannot see the bus driver in the bus’s rear view mirror, assume the driver does not see you. Slow down or change lanes so that you are visible to the bus driver.
  • Anticipate wide turns: Like large commercial trucks, buses also make wide turns. In some cases, they may need to swing wide to complete the turn. Never attempt to pass a bus while it is turning. When stopped at an intersection, do not “block the box,” as buses need that space to safely complete a turn.
  • Avoid distractions: Do not talk or text on the phone or engage in any type of distracted behavior when driving, particularly when the roads are icy. If your attention is off the road for even a couple of seconds, you may not be able to slow down or stop in time to avoid hitting a bus that has skidded into your lane.
  • Do not tailgate: Not only should you avoid tailgating during inclement weather, but also you are urged to increase the distance between you and the vehicle you are following, including buses and trucks that require more road space to slow down or come to a complete stop. Under normal circumstances, you should keep three seconds worth of space between you and the car in front of you. However, when road conditions are icy, you should increase that distance by up to 10 times. 
  • Avoid drowsy driving: When you start to feel drowsy, reconsider getting behind the wheel. If you must drive, take regular breaks, keep the window open to let some fresh air in, and share the driving responsibilities if there is another licensed adult in the car. Use extra caution when driving in the vicinity of a bus.

Baltimore Bus Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients in Weather-Related Bus Accidents

If you were seriously injured in a bus accident that occurred on an icy road, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore bus accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will conduct a thorough investigation and determine whether negligence was involved. Our dedicated legal team will assist you with every step of the claims process. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.