WASHINGTON, D.C. — During the 2021-2022 school year, six students were killed in the “Danger Zone” while either loading or unloading from the yellow school bus — one of which for the first time was older than 18 years old.
Also noteworthy was that four of the fatalities reported by all 50 states and the District of Columbia were caused by the student’s own school bus. A 52-year total of the National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey reports that 56.4 percent of student fatalities were attributed to the school bus. Meanwhile, 39.3 percent of fatalities were caused by other vehicles, and 4.3 percent were of an unknown cause.
Keith Dreiling, the state director of school bus safety for the Kansas State Department of Education, which administers the annual survey, presented the 2021-2022 school year results Sunday during the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services 54th Annual Conference. An unprecedented incident was recorded: A 19-year-old male student with special needs riding in a motorized wheelchair fell off the lift while being loaded into the school bus at his school. The student later died from his injuries.
Dreiling noted that historically the survey has only collected data on students through age 18, but students who receive transportation as a related service on their Individualized Education Program can attend school until age 21. Dreiling added the survey included the 19-year-old in the report but with an asterisk.
Additionally, three students were hit and killed by their school bus during either loading or unloading. In December 2021, a 6-year-old boy in Platin, Missouri had unloaded from the school bus, but the bus driver did not see him as he crossed in front of the bus. The bus driver then moved the vehicle forward, and the student was struck and killed by both the left front and left rear dual wheels.
Then, in Colorado, 11-year-old Annaliese Backner was running to catch her school bus, when she tripped, fell and was killed by the right read dual wheels of the bus. The March incident prompted Colorado state representatives to rename Colorado SB 85, Anna’s Law. However, the Safe Student Protection Program died during the legislative session.
A month later in April, Emory Sayre, 6, was unloading from the school bus in Texas. The school bus driver reported they did not see the child as she crossed in front of the bus. The bus moved forward, and the student was struck and killed by the front wheel of the bus.
Two incidents of illegal passing were also reported in the loading and unloading survey. In Indiana in September 2021, a 16-year-old girl was crossing the street in the morning to board the school bus. The bus was stopped with its stop-arm and eight-way lights activated when an oncoming vehicle did not stop. The student, identified as Lily Streeval, was struck and killed.
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A 10-year-old Florida girl in March was crossing the street to board her stopped school bus with its stop-arm and eight-way lights activated. An oncoming vehicle did not stop, and the student was struck and killed.
In total, four fatalities reportedly occurred by the school bus itself, whereas two were from illegal passing. Half occurred on the trip to school, and two of the fatalities were 6-year-olds. Four of the fatalities were female victims and four incidents occurred in daylight conditions. Weather and road conditions were clear during all six incidents.
Three of the fatalities occurred on a Monday, two occurred on a Thursday, and one on a Wednesday.
Two more fatalities were reported last school year than during the COVID-19-impacted 2020-2021 school year. Four students were killed in the act of loading or unloading their school bus during that reporting cycle, followed by two during the COVID-19-shortened, 2019-2020 school year. Eight fatalities were recorded for the 2018-2019 school year.