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Causes of Bus Accidents: What You Need To Know

When bus companies turn a blind eye to safety and the causes of bus accidents, serious crashes and injuries occur. Here’s how . . .

Causes of Bus Accidents: What You Need To Know

There are many causes of bus accidents, just as there are many causes of car accidents.

Tragically, however, the severity and deadly nature of these crashes are considerably greater given the number of passengers on a bus and the sheer size and weight of buses.

A typical, fully-loaded school bus can weigh about 42,000 pounds, whereas an average passenger automobile weighs about 3,000 pounds. Due to this size disparity and the basic laws of physics, any collision between a bus and another vehicle is likely to result in serious, and all too often fatal, injuries.

Determining the causes of bus accidents is important because that identifies who will be legally responsible for a crash victim’s damages, which includes pain and suffering compensation as well as excess medical expenses and excess wage loss benefits. 

Determining the cause of the bus accident that caused your injuries is one of the first things our experienced attorneys will do during discovery for your lawsuit.

What are the most common causes of bus accidents?

The following are among the most common causes of bus accidents:

Bus company negligence

One of the top causes of bus accidents in Michigan and throughout the country is bus company negligence. The motor coach industry transports more than 700 million passengers every year in the U.S. However, despite serving a similar number of people as the airline industry, the record-keeping and bus inspection protocols are not nearly as stringent.

This means bus companies often turn a blind eye to the federal regulations, training drivers or keeping their fleets maintained. These bus companies deliberately choose to sacrifice public safety for a bigger bottom line.

In addition, buses require a great deal of upkeep and maintenance to keep them safely operating. Older school buses, motor coaches, and Greyhound buses that lack seat belts and other safety equipment may increase the risk of injury or death from a bus accident. A bus accident could occur due to poor bus maintenance or a defective part that the company has failed to fix.

Bus driver negligence

While there are many laws in place that attempt to regulate bus drivers, they are often disregarded, especially by tour or charter bus companies. For instance, there are “hours of service” laws that address how long a bus driver can be on the road and must be on break before starting another shift. Other laws regulate bus speed, turning and passing. Drivers may also be negligent because they were texting or making a call on their cell phones. Again, an accident may also be the result of the driver being poorly trained, or just a bad driver.

But our attorneys always say when a bus driver causes an accident, it is technically the fault of the bus company who employed and trained that driver.

Bus driver fatigue

A sub-category of bus driver and bus company negligence is bus driver fatigue. Fatigue, and fatigue caused by sleep apnea, is the top highway killer in the U.S., and it greatly increases the chance of a bus wreck. For example, drivers with obstructive sleep apnea have 2.5 times greater risk of having a highway accident than drivers without sleep apnea, as the condition causes driver fatigue, according to a study by Findley, Unverzagt & Suratt, “Automobile Accidents Involving Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.”

In fact, the American Trucking Association states that at least 28% of its drivers have problems with sleep apnea, compared to 4% of the general population. The numbers cannot be much better for bus drivers, who have very similar occupations.

Bad weather

In rare occasions, a bus accident could be caused by inclement weather or poor road conditions. Hazardous weather coupled with the bus’s weight and inability to quickly maneuver around situations can cause wrecks.

Still, bus drivers should be properly trained to operate the bus and drive according to the weather conditions, as mandated by the law. There are certain precautions drivers of commercial motor vehicles are required to take when there’s bad weather.

Blind spots

Blind spots are a another common cause of bus accidents. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a blind spot as “an area that is not seen by the naked eye, or in the equipment provided.” Buses have mirrors to eliminate blind spots. Therefore, our attorneys contend that a blind spot is only an area that cannot be seen by the naked eye or the equipment (which should be properly adjusted) to be considered a true blind spot.

Left turns

Left-turn crashes are some of the most common causes of bus accidents. With regards to left turns, blind spots are really areas behind the left “A” pillar and mirror that are temporarily obstructed to the bus driver — and not blind at all. Bus drivers are trained to simply lean forward and backward to eliminate these blind spots.

A driver that is not able to move forward, left, or right in the driver’s seat because of height or weight requirements raises questions of improper training and improper selection of the driver on behalf of the bus company.

Another driver

A bus crash may also be caused by the negligence of another driver. With the large number of drivers on the road, and especially the increase in distracted driving, another driver could fail to obey traffic regulations and cause a serious bus wreck.

Bus fires

Bus fires can be particularly dangerous. Passengers at the rear of the bus may not be able to escape. Escape hatches may be too small. Fumes may overcome the passengers before they can exit.

Typically, fires in buses arise from two locations: (1) the engine compartment; and (2) the tires and wheel wells.

Engine compartment fires, which account for approximately 60% of all bus fires, can typically be prevented by careful, systematic maintenance as dirty engines, covered with grease and oily substances from age or leakage, create a ripe condition for fires from even a small spark or the high heat of travel.


Under-inflated tires are another cause of bus accident and can be a significant problem, as radial tires hold their shape even with low air pressure. However, when tires are operated at low air pressure, heat builds up quickly (particularly at highway speeds) and a fire (or shredding of a tire) can result. Most commonly this is due to under inflation of the inside dual tire.

Talk to an experienced lawyer

An experienced lawyer who focuses on bus crashes and who has extensive experience litigating cases for people who have been injured in these types of cases can get you the help you need, including benefits to pay for medical bills and lost wages and a settlement that reflects the full value of your injuries. 

Need help? Call the attorneys at Michigan Auto Law

If you have been injured in a crash and would like to speak with an experienced attorney, call us toll free anytime 24/7 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced accident attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.