ARLINGTON, Va. — Motorists who illegally passed school buses in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin killed two students while a New York school bus struck and killed a 5-year-old boy during the 2022-2023 school year, according to the National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey.
Keith Dreiling, state director of the School Bus Safety Unit at the Kansas State Department of Education that conducts the annual survey, released the findings during the closing day of that National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services Annual Conference in Arlington, Virginia. The figures are the second lowest since data was first compiled in 1970.
The National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey relies on crash and fatality data submitted by state agencies responsible for overseeing school transportation and/or accident record, when a school bus is on scene or in the immediate vicinity of an incident. The Kansas State Department of Education notes that data contained in its national survey report is only as accurate as the data supplied by the reporting data.
The survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia — D.C., New Jersey and Rhode Island “refused to participate,” according to the survey — revealed three fewer student fatality than the previous school year and the fewest reported fatalities since 2019, when there were two recorded deaths.
However, at least three other incidents that were reported on in the media were brought to the attention of School Transportation News by school bus safety consultant Dick Fischer. Adding those fatalities would tie with the six incidents documented during the 2021-2022 school year.
The fewest number of student deaths reported have been two during the 2019-2020 school year, which was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two students killed by illegally passing vehicles were teenagers attempting to board their school buses, both of which were at stops in rural areas. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the circumstances around the death of 13-year-old Evelyn Gurney, a middle school student who was struck in the driveway of her home by a truck driven by a 17-year-old driver failed to stop in time for the bus. They truck veered to his right, struck the right rear bus bumper and continued on past the loading door, killing Gurney in the process.
The other illegal passing fatality occurred when 16-year-old Arianna Landis was crossing the street at 7 a.m. to board her awaiting school bus. She died two weeks later from her injuries.
In both cases, the school bus had its red lights activated and the stop-arm extended.
On Christmas Day 2022, a school bus ran over 5-year-old Efrayim Yaakov Lebowitz as the bus pulled away from its stop with the boy running after it. After striking Lebowitz, the bus driver continued on, not realizing what had happened. There were few other details available as the private school would not disclose further information. The survey indicated the fatality occurred at “dusk.”
Weather conditions during all three incidents were clear as were road conditions. The fatalities occurred on a city street, a county road and a state highway.
In 53 years of survey results, nearly 73 percent of loading and unloading deaths, school buses have been the cause of 714 fatalities while other vehicles caused 499 deaths. “Other information” accounted for 54 fatalities. The ride to school has been the deadliest time for students, accounting for 812 fatalities.
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