2011 School Bus Related Deaths Report

By James Kraemer

2011 In Loving Memory Memorial
(Slides with name and brief of event) more details
of events appear at the report link at the bottom
of this article. 2011 Memorial Video

The first National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey was released in 1968, compiled at that time by the Kansas Department of Transportation. (~ STN)

The Kansas Department of Education now publishes the number of fatal accidents in the so called "danger zone" around the school bus. They only track student fatalities outside the bus. The report does not compile data about fatalities or injuries to students or drivers inside the bus. Nor does it track fatalities to motorists [and their passengers] who may collide with a school bus, nor data about student lives saved with seat belts use. (~ STN)

The number of children killed in school bus loading and unloading accidents in the U.S. has fallen to the lowest level since the 2007-08 school year, according to the Kansas State Department of Education's (KSDE) forthcoming national report releases in early December 2011. The total of eight danger zone deaths in 2010-11 was a drop of more than a third (38 percent) from the previous school year's total, 13. (~ School Bus Fleet, 'Danger zone deaths drop to 8’ – as of December 5, 2011)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reported a drop in traffic fatalities in 2010. 

Previous years reports from NHTSA concerning the school buses showed that 1,386 people have died in school transported-related crashes since 2000. Occupants of the school bus related vehicles are claimed to account for about 8 percent of those fatalities consisting of school transportation vehicle passengers, while 72 percent were occupants of other vehicles involved. NHTSA said more school-age pedestrians are killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time of the day.

40 school bus drivers reported died in bus crashes between 1993 and 2003. Hundreds of children have died over the past decade, students who were in the process of going to and from their bus stop, getting on or off their bus, or while riding their school bus. Over 400 children the past twenty years have been run over at their bus stop by their own school bus.

Although the 8 danger zone deaths presented by the KSDE may be understated, the average school bus remains safe. Private vehicle events often involve the child’s parents' own vehicle. There have been 158 children who have died in 'nontraffic' off-road frontal and back-over tragedies this year (2011), incidents that occur mainly in parking lots and driveways. These numbers involve comparing net events from well over a 100 million parents cars v/s net events from less than ½ million school buses.

Keep in mind that these reports vary, according to the annual tracking method used, qualifying criteria, and the accuracy of the information collected. NHTSA and 2SafeSchools.org tracks these fatalities by calendar year, while Kansas DOE and STN compile by school year.

An important missing part of these studies are the horrific life-altering injuries that happen too often throughout the year. The amount of anguish and medical costs involved in these life-altering injuries is so great that lawsuits can result in much higher awards than death awards.

Ashley Zauflik, (a 17-year-old high school student), lost her leg after a school bus struck her in 2007. She was in a medically induced coma for a month. Doctors were forced to amputate her leg. In December 2011, a Pennsylvania jury awarded Ashley (now 22), $14 million in lifetime medical, and other damages.

SBF Photo: Article | Model
These life-altering injuries are not given as much industry attention in safety campaigns as part of the industry’s school bus safety initiative, at least not for public release. An injury resource study from the American Academy of Pediatrics estimated 17,000 school bus-related injuries annually. The study included active studies from researchers at the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice with the Columbus Children's Research Institute at Columbus Children's Hospital in Ohio.

"This number is huge," said study lead author Jennifer McGeehan at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. "And it means these injuries are occurring much more frequently than previously thought, and parents need to be aware of that."

The highest proportion of injuries occurred during the months of September and October. This encourages that 'School Bus Safety Week' ought to be moved to a week or so before school starts.

Another school bus injury resource seems to be advocates websites for seat belts on the school buses. Saving lives and reducing injuries by reducing bus driver distraction, eliminating ejection, and maintaining a standard for children seem to be top issues promoted at these websites.

The school bus industry seems to focus on a narrower criterion – deaths, and theoretical injuries that seat belts, “could do more harm than good.” The report often referred to actually presented, “belts would do more good than harm.”

Injuries to school bus drivers due to violence are given little to no consideration when promoting school bus safety. The U.S. Bureau of Justice performed a five-year study of bus driver injuries that in recent years helped to include school buses in the National Defense Authorization Act. 105,800 bus drivers (including public transit) were injured 1993 – 1999 due to violence while behind the wheel of their workplace. When not remedied the hostile environment can become an established pattern at work. (~ U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report, December 2001, NCJ 190076, 1993-1999)

Assaults and violent acts was the only type of event to see an increase in fatal work injuries from 2008 to 2009. Fatal injuries from all other types of events decreased in 2009.

In the United States, a study by the National Safe Workplace Institute nearly two decades ago estimated that the total costs to employers of workplace violence amounted to more than US $4 billion in 1992. Safety and Health at Work and the Environment (SafeWork).

The average school bus ride to and from school may be safer than the family car – however, this claim may not be the case concerning the many below average school buses on our roads. When considering harmful noise levels on some school buses, hostile environments, bullying, fighting, weapons, and poor bus maintenance, how safe is the below average school bus?

Children left sleeping on actual school buses has escalated to issues concerning children left sleeping and missing their bus stop but still supervised. How many are found sleeping later in the route with the driver/monitor still on board has not been reported.

Children left sleeping alone on the school bus happens some 5,000 times every school year, yet no deaths or abductions resulted in at least twenty years. 

There was one case in 1995 where an infant was left sleeping and died on what was mentioned a daycare school bus. No information could be found to support that the vehicle was an actual school bus.

On average, 38 children die each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles - cars, vans, suv’s and the like. This tragedy escalated 500-percent after laws in some states required infants be placed in the back seat and out of view of the driver. Often just one child for the driver to keep track of, and is missed.

An infant can not manage the temperature extremes that can happen when left in these vehicles. Mainstream school buses rarely would transport an infant. However, it serves notice that an unattended infant transported even during normal operation on a hot bus could die of hyperthermia.

The 2safeschools archives track events by calendar year and do not cover all the school bus related deaths in a given year. Our budget is not funded by industry or government interests. Our funds are limited, the resources and the time available for this project prohibit that level of study.

We attempt to track all deaths to children that happen on the school buses, and at the bus stops when the bus is present or not. We include some details of the event, a photo of the victim when available, include related deaths in route crashes that may be useful in training classes and school bus related seminars.

The 2safeschools 2011 In Loving Memory calendar year are provided for instructors, bus drivers, and other school bus safety interests free of charge. The file can be downloaded from the Internet to use in updating training, policy development, and in other school bus related publications.

Information and memory links are collected and updated to the archives as found by 2safeschools members or provided by helpful visitors. Calendar year documentation back to 2000 is covered on our school bus safety CD, available from http://www.2safeschools.org/

 Polkton Township, Michigan, on December 13, 2011, siblings Bruce Privacky, 16, and sister Antonia, 13, died in a rural car-school bus crash. Bruce was driving behind a Coopersville school bus with Antonia as his front-seat passenger when the vehicle torpedoed (underride) under the bus around 2:35 p.m. The school bus had come to a stop with activated yellow and red hazard lights. A crash guard required on tractor trailers may have helped prevent these deaths. 

For Educational Use Only
All 2safeschools presentations, training evaluations, manuals, other offerings are offered only as guidelines for development of school bus driver, school staff, parent and children training programs. All individuals and sources involved in presenting these guides accept no liability for its content. Where any question exists, concerning implementing these materials, first check with your school board or your state's PTS for approval.

Copyright 2011 by James Kraemer, 2safeschools
Blog articles are available for republication. Please contact us for permissions.


  1. There have been 2 more as of dec 20th 2011. one in wyoming and one in pennsylvania

    1. the one in pennsylvania is ashley talor clark

    2. Ashley Talor Clark is corrected on the Detailed 2011 annual report.


Please keep your comments smart and civil. Do not attack other blog participants personally, and keep your language decent. Although we remove spam and any posts not relevant to education issues and bus safety, please report abuse if a comment is found that violates these standards.