Four students were reportedly killed in the act of loading or unloading their school bus during the 2020-2021 school year, according to the most recent survey released by the Kansas State Department of Education.
Keith Dreiling, the state director for the Kansas State Department of Education, briefed National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services members on Wednesday during the organization’s 53rd Annual Conference, which is being held virtually this year. The latest survey results, which were first reported in 1970, doubled from last year, though Dreiling added that the number of students transported for the 2020-2021 school year was lower because of COVID-19 and the school bus driver shortage.
Eight fatalities were reported at school bus stops during the 2018-2019 school year, and two were reported during the 2019-2020 school year.
The first reported fatality for 2020-2021 took place in Abilene, Kansas, where 7-year-Cecilla Graf was struck by an illegally passing vehicle while attempting to board her school bus. The vehicle was reportedly driven by a 15-year-old girl. The school bus driver had activated the warning lights and stop-arm. The incident took place in September 2020.
Two months later in Conroe, Texas, 6-year-old Sophia was running to catch the school bus, as the bus was pulling away from the bus stop. The student was struck and killed by the left front wheel of the bus.
In December, two elementary school students in Vardaman, Mississippi had reportedly just exited their school bus and were crossing the roadway when a semi-truck swerved around the bus and struck the students. The truck driver reportedly was attempting to avoid the bus, which was stopped with the stop-arm and warning lights still activated. A 7-year-old girl was pronounced dead at the scene. The other student was transported by air ambulance to the hospital to treat injuries.
In Brooklyn, New York, a 6-year-old boy was struck and killed by the right front tire and right rear wheels of his school bus in February 2021. He and his 9-year-old brother had just run to catch the bus to school. The 9-year-old boarded the bus but the 6-year-old remained in front of the bus as it pulled away from the stop.
The names of the other deceased victims were not identified.
Three of the four fatalities occurred on the trip to school and involved female victims. Two of the fatalities occurred in dry weather conditions, while the others were in wet conditions.
All fatalities occurred on a Wednesday, but Dreiling said nothing could be inferred by that fact. However, a NASDPTS member questioned via chat if later school start times or early release had anything to do with the fatalities.
Over the past 51 years, a school bus caused 56.4 percent of fatalities while 39.3 percent occurred because of other vehicles. The remaining 4.3 percent are attributed to “other” causes. Additionally, 64 percent of fatalities occurred on the trip to school, 32.7 percent happened on the trip home, and the remaining 3.3 percent was attributed to an activity or other trip.
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All states except for Rhode Island participated in the 2020-2021 survey, which is voluntary. However, according to data School Transportation News collected by local news outlets, Rhode Island reported no “Danger Zone” fatalities.
In that same data, STN found that at least 13 other students were hit and injured by an illegal passing vehicle while attempting to load or unload from their school bus during the 2020-2021 school year.