Annually, 26 million school children travel to and from school by school bus each day. In Mississippi, this equates to hundreds of thousands of children using school buses as their primary mode of transportation to school, as well as to school related activities. While school buses are known to be one of the safest ways to get to and from school, there are still many serious accidents involving careless drivers.
Recently, in Picayune, MS, WLOX reported on an accident where a teenager was critically wounded after he was hit by a vehicle while walking to the bus stop. 17-year-old Gavin Miller was found by his friend, in a ditch being treated by paramedics, after failing to meet his friend at the bus stop. The car involved fled from the scene and the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department is searching to find the driver of the vehicle. Surveillance footage from the passing school bus has been released showing a vehicle that may be the perpetrator.
Miller was airlifted to a hospital in Jackson and was in critical condition. His grandmother has since released a statement saying that he is in stable condition now and is being treated for internal and head injuries. Its is being reported that Jackson Landing Road Pearl River County, where the incident occurred, is notorious for having drivers hit speeds of up to 80 miles per hour.
Prior to this accident, many have reported this area as being unsafe while law enforcement claims they are not able to do anything has been undue to a 1972 law that was passed to “prevent abusive speed traps.” Because of the 1972 law, Jackson Landing Road is an unincorporated part of the county and sheriff’s deputies are prohibited by law to use radars to monitor speed in this area. Residents of this area are proposing that some sort of sidewalk should be put into place for children walking to these bus stops.
While the sheriff in Pearl River county may believe using radar is the only way to help this situation, we suggest that having patrol cars in the area would be a good deterrent, even they can’t write tickets and levy fines.
In 2011, Mississippi passed a bill known as “Nathan’s Law.” This bill was named in honor of 5-year-old Nathan Key, who in 2009 was tragically struck by a car that was trying to pass the school bus which was letting Nathan out in front of his home. After this horrific incident, Nathan’s parents were on a mission to ensure that no other family had to face this sort of tragedy.
Nathan’s Law requires drivers to stop at least ten feet away from buses that are loading or unloading children. People operating motor vehicles are not allowed to pass the school bus until the red lights stop flashing. Those who have injured or killed children because of incidents such as these can now be charged with felony assault and be sentenced to as much as twenty years in prison.
The fine for passing a school bus has also been increased significantly due to this law and it could also result in the suspension of one’s driver’s license for up to ninety days.
Notably, Cameras have now been installed on all “bus stop arms” to film those violating this law. In addition, Nathan’s Law established a School Bus Safety Task Force which has the mission to ensure the safety of each child riding in a school bus.
Tragedies in the News
In recent years, we’ve all heard about tragedies involving school children boarding and off boarding buses. One tragic case occurred in Pontotoc, Mississippi, where a 7-year-old girl named Amiya Braxton was struck by a SUV after exiting a school bus into her own driveway. Sadly, Amiya suffered fatal injuries caused by a woman who had been following the school bus too closely and failed to come to a stop when the bus did. Once the bus came to a stop, the woman tried to swerve from hitting the bus and instead tragically went into a ditch and killed 7-year-old Braxton.
The Pontotoc county Grand Jury did not bring charges against the driver of the SUV to many people’s disappointment. District Attorney John Weddle said this case was tough because while people’s first reaction is that they want to punish the driver, it boils down to the intent of the driver. There is no evidence that the woman was trying to pass the bus, therefore Nathan’s Law could not apply to this case.
Because Nathan’s Law may not always be helpful, its important that the laws about the placement of bus stops need to be clearly understood by all drivers to ensure the full safety of children making their way to and from school. While laws such as Nathan’s Law have been put into place to keep our children safe, drivers need to be more aware and cautious when coming into encounters with school buses and in areas near bus stops.
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in close proximity to a school bus or any other type of public transportation, seek counsel from an attorney right away. Public transportation, like 18wheeler cases require attention very soon so evidence does not disappear. There are also special rules applicable to school bus accidents that may mean you have only a 1 year statute of limitations.
School Bus accident attorneys, Roberts Wilson and Emily Ratliff offer free initial consultations in your time of need and there are no upfront fees and no fee is ever charged unless the case is successful.