When the importance of driver safety on the roadway is discussed, people usually don’t consider the law that makes it illegal to pass a school bus on a local street. Yet failing to follow this law can have major consequences — recently, an eight-year-old girl was struck and injured as she exited a school bus.
When a school bus flashes its red light and extends a stop arm, drivers are not supposed to pass, but instead must wait until the lights are no longer flashing and the stop arm retracted. Yet according to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, (NASDPTS), too many drivers ignore this basic law. On the day West Virginia was evaluated, as many as 450 drivers failed to heed the flashing lights. Because of this, the state decided to take part in the national School Bus Safety Week during the last week of October. State troopers rode along the bus routes to observe any possible violations. They found multiple violations in more than half of the counties surveyed.
There is no indication of how the state intends to combat this problem, other than through growing awareness. In a recent public safety announcement, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin asked West Virginians to be part of the campaign to protect children who take the school bus — an estimated 230,000.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm support the state’s efforts to increase awareness about this issue, and other seemingly “minor” street safety issues. It cannot be emphasized enough that being a responsible driver is not just about driving the speed limit on the interstate, though that is where the worst car accidents seem to happen. It is also about being observant when driving through neighborhoods and commercial districts. Many serious accidents take place when drivers are at lower speeds. It is not unusual, for instance, for pedestrians to be hit while in the crosswalk because the driver was not expecting him or her and failed to stop in time. The accidents that result can lead to serious injuries, large medical bills, and months of physical therapy.
If you or your child was injured after being hit by a car, you should seek the services of an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney has the resources to locate witnesses and take other evidence at the scene. If you are able to successfully locate the driver, you could bring a negligence lawsuit against him or her, as well as other claims, such as battery. Both claims are torts, but the driver’s actions may also prompt a criminal proceeding. A criminal case is held separately from a civil case. There is no plaintiff — the prosecutor brings the case against the defendant, and a conviction could result in penalties and even jail time. By contrast, in a civil proceeding, you would be the plaintiff, and if you succeed, a jury would award you a monetary award for your pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and more.
In a civil proceeding, you would argue for negligence that (1) the driver had a duty to you and other pedestrians to be reasonably observant, (2) the driver breached that duty by failing to be observant, (3) the breach led to you being hit by the driver’s car, and (4) as a result, you suffered damage. For battery, you would argue that the driver voluntarily brought about a harmful or offensive contact to which you did not consent. Battery would likely be a more difficult claim to succeed on because of trouble proving that the driver voluntarily hit you with his or her car. However, if that one claim fails, that does not mean all of your claims fail, and you might have a successful case if you just argued negligence.