Should School Busses Have Underride Guards?

The latest debate among highway safety proponents concerns more stringent requirements for underride guards for 18 wheelers and other large commercial trucks. After conducting a number of safety tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety even petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to strengthen underride guard standards.

But why should “highway safety” begin and end with commercial trucks? Why not require installation of underride guards on school buses as well?

While there are fewer school busses than semi trucks on the roads, busses are as much at risk of being rear ended as any other vehicle. And since school buses sit just as high as most semis, a car sliding under the back of a bus can lead to tragedy or serious injury – which is exactly what two Texans discovered yesterday afternoon when their car collided with the back of a school bus.

According to police, on Tuesday afternoon, a school bus dropping children off outside Pleasanton, Texas, stopped on Highway 281. A small passenger sedan stopped behind the bus, waiting, when it was rear ended by a van. The impact of the rear-end collision caused the car to jump forward and hit the back of the bus, the front of the car sliding under the back end of the higher-riding bus. As the car slid under the bus, it caught fire.

The students riding on the bus, ranging from third graders to high school seniors, evacuated without injury. But the van driver and one of the car’s passengers were not so fortunate. Both were transported to hospitals in the area, but no specifics on their medical conditions have been released.

Could an underride guard on the school bus have prevented the car from sliding under the back of the bus? It’s quite likely. But in the end, highway safety agencies can only enact so many measures to protect motorists. It ultimately comes down to safe and attentive driving.

Related resource: San Antonio Express-News, “School bus crash injures two adults in Pleasanton,” 5/10/11