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Parking Brake Systems, Serious Concern

The accidents below are just a few of the thousands that have occurred when the air/emergency brake has not been engaged properly, securely, or at all.

Book Bag Tripped Parking Brake on Bus in
Friday Wreck, Police Say
An errant book bag released the brake on the school bus that hit a parked car Friday by the Joseph Gomez Elementary School, police said Wednesday.

A preliminary investigation by the V.I. Police Departments traffic investigation bureau indicates the school bus parking brake knob was disengaged when a student tossed a book bag in the bus and hit the knob, releasing the brake, said Melody Rames.

The bus rolled down a hill, hitting a parked car containing passengers and pushing it about 33 feet into two other unoccupied vehicles. No students were injured.

The passengers in the car were complaining of discomfort, but okay.

School Bus Driver Injured in Incident
While a school bus driver attempted to park an empty bus Monday morning, the bus slid down an embankment, through a guardrail and crashed into a fence, causing about $50,000 in damage, police said.

The driver was transported to Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque, where he was treated and released for minor injuries.

Just after 8:30 a.m., the driver was attempting to park a bus in a lot at 1350 West Locust Street. He told police that he put the bus in neutral, shut it off and then went to the back of the bus for an inspection, but he believes he forgot to activate the emergency brake, police said. When he walked back to the front, the bus went over a curb, through a guardrail and fence, down an embankment, where it stopped in a wooded area.

Dubuque Community Schools Transportation Manager said there was no one else on the bus at the time, and there were no other injuries. She said a preliminary estimate on damage could top $40,000.

The school district stated the bus driver has been with them for four years and he has a clean driving record.

A fire truck rolled out of Fire Rescue headquarters
into a downtown lake.
The driver/firefighter failed to set the truck’s parking brake after a run.The combination of a sloped floor in Fire Station 1 and movement in the water tank was enough to start the rig rolling. The truck rolled out of the station, down a ramp, across a busy street and into Lake Tuscawilla. No one was injured, but the truck sustained $60,000 in damage.

School Bus Tragedy in NYC
(CBS/AP) An 8-year-old boy was arrested after he sneaked onto a school bus and released its parking brake, causing it to roll forward and fatally strike a second-grader, police said Tuesday.

The boy was to be charged with criminally negligent homicide, Officer Doris Garcia said. Police were withholding his name because of his age, she said.

Investigators believe the driver got off the bus and secured it but the boy may have gotten inside through the back door, an emergency exit that cannot be locked, police spokeswoman Detective Theresa Farello said. No charges were filed against the driver. A spokesman for the Department of Education said the bus driver was finished with his rounds and on his lunch break. Sometime while the boy was on the bus, he released the parking brake.

School Bus Kills Bronx Boy Upstate
A 9-year-old Bronx boy was crushed to death by a rolling school bus on an Orange County apple farm yesterday after other kids horsing around in the bus released the parking brake.

Dozens of screaming youngsters ran for their lives as the bus careened nearly 300 feet down a hill before smashing little Robert Richard into a tree as he waited to take a pony ride.

Three other boys were hit but suffered only minor injuries, police said.

The accident occurred about 12:30pm at Maskers Apple Orchard in Warwick, about 60 miles north of the city.

As usual at this time of the year, the farm was busy with hundreds of visitors out to enjoy a day in the country at a place where they can play with animals, listen to Indian songs and enjoy picking their own apples.

Warwick Town Police Sgt. George Arnott said a bus from Faith Temple New Hope Christian School in East Orange, N.J., brought several dozen children to the farm in the morning and parked on an incline near the main office. The driver, he said, left the bus for a while around noon, and three boys one 9 the other two 11 entered the bus.

The kids apparently were just playing around, typical horseplay,  Arnott said. But somehow the parking brake got disengaged.

He said the three boys jumped from the bus as it began to roll down the hill and shouted warnings to dozens of children in the way. Young Robert was in a group of kids waiting at the bottom of the hill for pony rides and probably didn’t hear the boys yelling.

Witnesses said the bus smashed the boy into a tree and stopped, and scores of other children watched in horror. Arnott said psychological counselors were rushed to the farm to help the youngsters deal with the shock.

Arnott said investigators took statements from the three kids who released the parking brake and said it appears what happened was an accident. No charges have been filed in the case.

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Defensive, Non-Driving?

bus 7 Defensive, Non Driving?Since driving a 20- or 25-ton motorcoach is touted as so being difficult, it is only fair to ask why so much carnage, and so many law suits, occur apart from collisions. In particular, the number of incidents occurring at or near stops seems largely disproportionate to the perceived simplicity of handling things when the bus or coach is stationary.

Magnets for Mayhem
Bus and coach drivers have alternatives to discharging passengers into or onto potholes, cracked curbs, snow, ice and wet cement. Yet:

  • Under dim streetlights, a transit driver discharged an elderly passenger, in the outer lane, adjacent to a coned-off construction area. On his third step, the passenger fell into a trench.
  • Caught in a red light, a transit driver discharged several passengers on the wrong side of the intersection three feet from the curb – a distance which all but the first passenger could not gauge until they reached the bottom step. One victim discovered this gap while stretching to reach what turned out to be a shattered curb.
  • Compounding the vehicle’s irregularly-configured stepwell, a paratransit driver parked on an angle, on a sloped driveway, where his elderly passenger was forced to step onto a tiny triangle of curbing. Grabbing her right elbow and wrist, the driver flipped her off the vehicle onto this landing area.
  • Caught in a light, another transit driver discharged an elderly woman in the travel lane adjacent to a barricaded construction area. Her third step landed in a patch of wet cement.
  • Pulling into his regular spot at a fire hydrant, one bus-length from a cleared transit stop, a shuttle driver discharged another elderly passenger onto a snow bank.
  • Failing to announce the stop needed by his visually-impaired passenger, a transit driver then discharged him before reaching the next designated stop. In the pre-dawn darkness, the disoriented passenger fell down a dew-covered grassy embankment.

Occasionally, negligence may occur at the stop during boarding:

  • Instead of loading his elderly passenger with her walker via the wheelchair lift, a paratransit driver permitted her to climb onto the van from a decorative cinderblock her attendant had stored near the stop.
  • After unloading a wheelchair occupant, a schoolbus driver returned to the driver’s seat and promptly ran over an elderly woman standing directly in front of the windshield where she had been trying to flag a passing taxi that might have stopped behind the bus had the driver engaged its red flashers.

Some drivers discharge passengers involved in violence as quickly as possible. While drivers certainly have a responsibility to protect fellow passengers, alighting a mix of perpetrators and victims can escalate the violence:

  • After being insulted with a racial epithet, one of three hoodlums grabbed the insulting teenager’s backpack before stepping off the bus. The victim alighted to retrieve it, grabbed it, and the thugs then chased him back to the bus. Perhaps afraid this m�l�e might re-enter the bus, the driver locked the victim out, and the bus remained in place while passengers watched the gang-bangers pummel him into a vegetable.
  • Immediately before alighting, another hoodlum cursed out a well-dressed adult who had just complained about the volume of his ghetto-blaster. The adult ran down the stepwell, grabbed the hoodlum and pulled him back onto the bus – where the frightened teenager pulled a gun and wildly shot three uninvolved passengers.
  • After transporting an obvious junkie to three successive crack houses during the wee hours, each of which the passenger had entered ostensibly in search of the fare and from which he returned empty-handed, the taxi driver was finally instructed by his dispatcher to tell the passenger to either pay the fare or get out. When the taxi stopped, the passenger slammed the driver’s face into the steering wheel, and then climbed into the front seat and stole his cash.

Sometimes, incorrect or inappropriate stops invite or induce mayhem:

  • A paratransit driver stopped, mid-route, and induced an 11-year-old boy into the van by offering him a ride home. When the pre-teenager succeeded in fending off his sexual advances, the driver beat him to a pulp and, not realizing the victim was still alive, dumped him into a gutter.
  • After the first criminal impersonated (in falsetto) the victims’ mother in a telephone call to the Transportation Director, and a second hand-delivered a letter (purportedly authored by the victims’ father) forged by a third, three perpetrators convinced a school transportation system to transfer two elementary school students to a different bus and route. The perpetrators met and boarded the bus, and to the chants of “child molester” by other students, dragged the girls off the bus at knifepoint, and drove them on a two-week, cross-country rape-spree.

A number of stop-related cases involve the driver’s failure to “clear” the mirrors:

  • Forced to discharge at an undersized stop (an appropriately-sized stop a block earlier lay adjacent to the showroom window of a luxury car dealer), the bus driver pulled in on an angle, compromising his view of surrounding traffic through the exterior mirrors. When the bus pulled out, its engine startled a bicyclist approaching the rear, and she swerved into the adjacent lane where she was struck by a car passing the bus.
  • Another transit driver stopped away from the curb, began to pull out, stopped again, and finally closed the doors before a three-year-old girl and her nanny could reach the bus. The child broke free, ran into the street and, as it passed her by, struck the bus – and spun beneath its rear wheels.
  • After first boarding with his disabled pass, a drunkard staggered off the bus and, as the driver pulled from the curb, stumbled into the gutter where the rear wheels ran him over.
  • An infant in the front seat of a tandem stroller had been wheeled by her mother into a bus shelter while a parked bus awaited repair. When the bus eventually pulled out, an advertising poster mounted on one side of the shelter blocked the driver’s view into it through his curb-side exterior mirror. The noise of the approaching engine startled the infant from her stroller, and the bus’ right-rear tires rolled over her buttocks.
  • After his colleague boarded a motorcoach, the guest speaker at an international conference on surgery turned and, without looking, walked into a fold-in, curb-side exterior mirror extending virtually two feet from the coach body.

The latent defects of many poorly-designed stepwells are compounded by driver errors and omissions in helping passengers use them:

  • A transit driver closed the rear door (with no sensitive edge) of his articulated bus on a child. The child’s mother lurched at the doors, pushing them open and freeing her daughter, but fell out of the bus. Gripping the vertical handles which rotated outward with the doors’ opening, her arms were torn from their sockets.
  • As the maladjusted rear doors of another articulated bus threatened to close during her alighting, the passenger leaned to push them open only to have them reopen before first closing. The force she now needlessly exerted caused her to lose her balance, and she slid off the stepwell feet-first.
  • In violation of the ADA, a passenger rail service deployed a non-accessible motorcoach in feeder service from an unmanned, outlying station, and stored an elderly stroke victim’s wheelchair in the luggage compartment. At the destination, he slipped alighting the stepwell and fell into the arms of a railroad agent who, in the driver’s absence, was “spotting” the passenger at the bottom.
  • Another motorcoach driver chatting at the bottom of the stepwell failed to catch an elderly woman as she tumbled down.
  • An attendant assisting a physically-disabled special education student off a schoolbus tripped on the irregularly-shaped trapezoidal stepwell designed to accommodate an uncharacteristic jackknife door, and fell down the stepwell.
  • A commuter express passenger fell out of the bus because the driver induced him into the stepwell by opening the mechanically-operated door before the bus came to a stop.
  • An overweight woman’s dress caught on the ironing-board-shaped handrail of a transit bus stepwell, suspending her like a hood ornament. When her dress then ripped, she fell forward from the stepwell.

In contrast to these errors and omissions, wheelchair occupants falling off lifts or ramps are often themselves at fault and, correspondingly, the lawsuits which follow are often frivolous:

  • An electric wheelchair occupant jettisoned himself off an ascending lift platform as it reached the vehicle’s floor level. A year earlier, he had zoomed off the same platform at ground level – and had not been slightly injured.
  • A muscle-bound single amputee’s manual wheelchair was missing its footplates. Failing to engage one brake, his spun his chair in a circle and it twirled off the lift platform.
  • After clearing several lateral braces on the ramp while descending from a high-floor van, a wheelchair occupant’s heavily-booted, extended leg slipped off a footplate as he neared the bottom of the ramp, caught on a brace, and he and his chair somersaulted off the end of the ramp.

Many passengers fall onto the floor of a stopped vehicle, or onto the ground just outside it after alighting:

  • Instead of being discharged into the care of an attendant to assist her from the bus to her school, a developmentally disabled child was discharged, unassisted, into a busy parking lot, where she was knocked down by a fellow-student running through it.
  • During the barely-10-foot walk from the van to her lobby door, an elderly woman’s driver thought he had left one of her belongings on the van, and abandoned her for a few moments to retrieve it. She fell immediately to the ground. What the driver had forgotten was her cane.
  • Another elderly paratransit passenger was safely assisted off the vehicle onto a flat, stable surface. As the driver momentarily let go of her to close the van door before escorting her to her doorway, the passenger fell into the gutter.
  • Immediately after boarding without assistance, a cognitively-impaired, overweight adult with diabetes and impaired vision tripped over a securement device left in place after her driver had earlier unloaded a wheelchair occupant.

Despite service brakes, parking brakes and wheel chocks, some drivers can’t keep their buses or coaches stopped:

  • After parking his schoolbus facing downhill, a driver abandoned the bus without locking the entrance door. When three students reentered the bus and began wrestling, one of them fell into an improperly-cocked emergency brake handle mounted on the aisle-side of the driver’s compartment. The bus careened down the hill, its side-view mirror beheading one student and the bus body crushing another into quadriplegia.
  • Parking nose-down on a steep hill without pointing the front wheels toward the curb, a motorcoach driver stepped off his idling bus to help the passengers alight. When the last 20 or so bunched up toward the front, the bus began rolling down the hill. When the driver leaped to assist a young passenger standing in the stepwell, the right-front tire ran over his foot.
  • Without slowing, a 79-year-old motorcyclist ran into the rear of a stopped transit bus with such force that he ruptured its cooling system, and knocked the bus half a bus-length forward.
  • A paratransit driver unloaded a wheelchair occupant in the dark, and abandoned her on the sidewalk while he walked around and into the building to find an accessible entrance. In the meantime, the passenger wheeled herself to what she thought might be one, and tipped over her chair during a sharp, steep incline.

Data Vacuums and Illusions
Because motorcoaches make so few stops compared to many of their passenger transportation counterparts, and because so many motorcoach fatalities involve catastrophic accidents, one might suspect that stop-related fatalities and serious injuries comprise a relatively small proportion of serious motorcoach accidents compared to those involving a moving vehicle. Yet my experiences suggest this is the case largely because moving-vehicle accidents involve multiple victims.

Accidents which occur when buses, coaches and vans are not moving are often not even recorded or classified as vehicular accidents in data bases. This illusion dies quickly in the courtroom.

The D’uh! Factor
When errors or omissions which seriously injure someone resemble slapstick, jurors are unlikely to laugh or giggle. While jurors may be horrified by the negligence leading to many collisions, they at least appreciate their complexity. When the vehicle was not even in motion, such viewpoints are less likely. The one concept defendants do not want jurors to formulate is the notion of “D’uh!” When jurors conclude “D’uh,” defendants and their underwriters begin writing checks. When the “D’uh!” factor translates into punitive damages, the checks are generally larger.

Defensive Non-Driving
While damage awards from catastrophic and other major collisions drain the motorcoach industry, our pockets are also being emptied from incidents that occur when the vehicles are standing still. These penalties are the true costs of “idling.” While motorcoaches are parked or idling, regulators and law enforcement agencies would do well to pay less attention to the harm done by their noise and exhaust, and more attention to the harm done by negligent drivers and management.

Sound training for handling any type of commercial vehicle includes defensive driving. But it is a mistake to ignore the litany of concerns about stationary objects, many of which need merely be identified. Failing to provide such training violates an important but often-overlooked principle of safety: At least at the driver level, most incidents and accidents are not the result of things one does not know; they are the result of things one does not see. While drivers need not make the quick adjustments to most non-driving scenarios otherwise essential to driving-related circumstances, they need to at least know what they are. In the operating world, vehicles incur most of their costs when they are moving. In the liability world, they may cost more to park.

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2 Dead and 21 Injured in Washington State Bus Crash

Bus 61 300x168 2 Dead and 21 Injured in Washington State Bus CrashA bus carrying soccer fans forced one car off the road and then slammed into a disabled pickup truck on the shoulder of Interstate 90 in central Washington, killing two people and injuring 21 others, authorities said.

The bus careened onto its side after hitting the truck after 6 p.m. Saturday, said Washington State Patrol Lt. Scott Martin. The crash occurred near the town of Cle Elum, about 80 miles east of Seattle.

Two people on the bus were killed: Ciro R. Astudillo, 51, and Virginia Ocamposoriano, 45, both of Pasco.

The bus was returning to eastern Washington following an exhibition soccer match between Mexico and Ecuador in Seattle on Saturday. As the driver, identified as Elmer Schuman, 67, changed from the right lane into the left lane, the bus forced a Hyundai Elantra off the road into the median, where it overturned and came to a stop, the State Patrol said in a news release. A woman and a toddler in the Elantra suffered minor injuries.

The bus then veered back to the right, striking the disabled pickup. The truck’s driver, Jeffrey R. Irmer, 24, of Spokane was standing outside the truck when the bus slammed into it. The accident broke Irmer’s leg and he was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where a nursing supervisor said he was in satisfactory condition Sunday.

Martin said 21 people in all were injured. Most of the injuries were believed to be minor.

Paul Jimenez told Seattle’s King TV that he drove up to the scene just moments after the crash.

“I saw people crawling out from underneath the bus, or being dragged out. I saw people coming out from the top,” he said.

“People were hugging and crying,” Jimenez said. “It’s kind of shocking. I’m still a little bit in shock right now.”

Kittitas Valley Community Hospital in Ellensburg said nine of the injured were treated at its facilities and all were in satisfactory condition.

Martin said he didn’t have any other details on the crash, including how fast the bus was traveling.

The eastbound lanes of the interstate were closed for investigation but reopened by about 1:30 a.m. Sunday

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Woman is Injured in San Francisco Muni Bus Crash

A car accident in the San Francisco area involving a runaway Muni bus resulted in injuries for a female driver the evening of April 17, 2011. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the injury car accident occurred near the intersection of San Jose Avenue and Mission Street in Daly City. Officials say the bus was improperly parked, rolled down the roadway and crashed into thebus5 Woman is Injured in San Francisco Muni Bus Crash victim’s vehicle. She was trapped in the vehicle and was transported to a local hospital with injuries, but is expected to survive. Officials are investigating the cause of the incident.

It is indeed fortunate that the victim of this bus accident escaped without major injuries. I pray that she recovers quickly and completely from her injuries.

Car Accidents

There were 36 deaths and 2,673 injuries involving car accidents in San Mateo County in 2008, according to California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS). In Daly City, three people were killed and 248 were injured as a result of car accidents during the same year.

What Caused this Accident?

It is not clear from this report as to what caused the bus to roll away and strike the victim’s vehicle. It is also not clear whether the bus driver was in the vehicle at the time. There are several questions here. Was the bus driver negligent or inattentive? Was the driver following proper procedures? Did the accident occur due to a defective parking brake? Did a brake failure occur because of poor bus maintenance? I trust officials are looking into these and other issues in order to determine what occurred here and why.

Victims’ Claim for Compensation

In such cases, injured victims would be well-advised to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable San Francisco personal injury lawyer, who will analyze all facets of the incident and make sure that the negligent parties are held accountable. If the bus driver is determined to have been at fault, both the driver and his or her employer can be held liable. Please remember that any personal injury claim against a California public entity must be filed within six months of the accident or injury.

Seriously injured in a San Francisco Muni accident? Want to know if you have a case? Want to know what your case is worth? Want compensation for your injuries? Want justice? Want to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else?

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Bus lines need safety protections

bus4 300x162 Bus lines need safety protectionsSen. Brown and I are strong advocates for this critical issue because both of our states have experienced several tragic and preventable bus crashes. In 2006, two students from Beaumont West Brook High School in Texas were killed and 21 people injured after their charter bus overturned. The bus did not have seat belts, and the oversize windows that covered much of the bus were not impact-resistant.

Our legislation would directly address these shortcomings by requiring seat belts, stronger windows and crush-resistant roofs so that buses can better withstand rollovers and passengers will not be thrown from their seats.

Congressional action is needed because the Department of Transportation has not acted on many basic passenger safety protections even after the National Transportation Safety Board suggested a lengthy list of bus safety improvements, including several cited in our legislation — safety belts, crush-resistant roofs and stronger windows.

Another critical issue that directly affects bus safety and must be addressed is that of “reincarnated” carriers. Such carriers are bus companies, often providing charter buses for school and group trips, that are taken out of service because of extensive safety violations and then quickly resume operation under new names.

This practice allows these risky carriers to continue operating without having to address and correct safety violations. This was one of the factors that led to a devastating bus accident in Sherman, Texas, that claimed 17 lives in 2008.

Our bus safety legislation would close this loophole by requiring motor coach vehicle safety inspections of all new bus operators to ensure they are able to operate safely before they carry a single passenger, and it would help stop the growing problem of reincarnated carriers.

Now is the time to pass the Brown-Hutchison comprehensive bus safety legislation. Our proposal presents a sensible way to help prevent many senseless tragedies. As Americans climb aboard buses and hit the road this summer, let us be sure that we are doing everything possible to make their trips safe.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

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School Bus Driver Parking Brake Injuries

School Bus Driver Parking Brake Injuries

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14 dead, many injured in NYC casino bus accident

By JIM FITZGERALD and TOM HAYS, Associated Press Jim Fitzgerald And Tom Hays, Associated Press – Sat Mar 12, 6:13 pm ET
NEW YORK – A tour bus returning from a casino at daybreak Saturday scraped along a guard rail, tipped on its side and slammed into a pole that sheared it nearly end to end, leaving a jumble of bodies and twisted metal along Interstate 95. Fourteen passengers were killed.

The bus had just reached the outskirts of New York City on a journey from the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut when the crash happened. The driver told police he lost control trying to avoid a swerving tractor-trailer.

As many as 20 passengers were treated at area hospitals. Seven were in critical condition, according to police. Several were in surgery later in the day.

The crash happened at 5:35 a.m., with some of the 31 passengers still asleep. The bus scraped along the guard rail for 300 feet, toppled and crashed into the support pole for a highway sign indicating the exit for the Hutchinson Parkway.

The pole knifed through the bus front to back along the window line, peeling the roof off all the way to the back tires. Most people aboard were hurled to the front of the bus on impact, fire chief Edward Kilduff said.

The southbound lanes of the highway were closed for hours while emergency workers tended to survivors and removed bodies.

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