Bus AccidentsBus Rollovers: Why These Accidents Can Be So Deadly

February 21, 20240

Bus rollover accidents are some of the deadliest types of traffic crashes. When a bus tips over onto its side or roof, the massive size and weight make injuries and fatalities much more likely. Understanding why bus rollovers occur and the factors that make them dangerous can help improve safety for bus drivers and passengers.

What Causes Bus Rollovers?

There are several things that can lead a bus to roll over in an accident:

  • High Speeds – Buses have a high center of gravity, which makes them prone to rollovers, especially at high speeds when turning. Speeding increases the forces on the bus that can cause it to tip over. Studies show most bus rollover crashes occur at speeds over 50 mph.
  • Sharp Turns – Making a sharp turn at high speeds can cause the bus’s momentum to continue pulling it over onto its side during the turn. This is especially dangerous on curved exit ramps. The gravitational forces on the bus build up the faster it goes into a turn.
  • Overcorrection – If a bus drifts out of its lane, an inexperienced or fatigued driver may overcorrect and turn the wheels too sharply, resulting in a rollover. Data shows most bus rollovers are single-vehicle incidents involving roadway departure and overcorrection.
  • Road Conditions – Slick roads, soft shoulders, uneven surfaces, and steep slopes can all contribute to rollover crashes, especially if the driver loses control. Rural roads and mountain highways see more bus rollovers than urban roads.
  • Mechanical Failure – If tire blowouts, brake failure or other equipment malfunctions occur, the driver may lose control and cause the bus to overturn. Lack of maintenance and pre-trip inspections are often factors in mechanical issues.
  • Driver Error – In addition to overcorrection and speeding, driver inattention, intoxication, distraction, and improper maneuvers can all lead to a bus being steered dangerously off the roadway. Rollovers frequently involve a single vehicle drifting off the road initially.

Why Rollovers Are So Dangerous

When a 15-passenger van rolls over, injuries are likely. But when a 40+ passenger bus tips over or rolls onto its side, the consequences are enormous:

  • Unrestrained Passengers – Unlike cars, most commercial buses do not have seat belts. When a rollover occurs, unsecured passengers are thrown about violently inside the bus, often being launched from their seats.
  • Crushing Injuries – As the bus rolls, passengers can be crushed by the mass and weight of the bus coming down on seats, walls, and other riders. Passengers near windows often suffer the most serious crushing injuries.
  • Ejection – Windows broken during the crash can cause partial or full ejection of passengers from the bus, frequently resulting in fatalities. Ejected passengers often sustain traumatic head and spinal cord injuries.
  • Trapped Passengers – Following a rollover, injured and panicked passengers may be trapped inside the damaged bus, requiring emergency crews to extract them using hydraulic tools. This delays medical treatment.
  • Longer Occupant Compartment – Unlike vans, buses have longer occupant areas leading to passengers being tossed greater distances and increasing injury severity in a rollover.

Factors Making Injuries Worse

Several aspects specific to bus design and riders contribute to more severe injuries and fatalities:

  • No Seat Belts – The lack of seat belts and passenger restraints is a major contributor to injury severity. Unbelted passengers are launched around the bus during rollovers.
  • Large Windows – Larger windows on buses allow for more ejections compared to smaller car windows that retain occupants. Side windows on buses frequently shatter during rollovers.
  • Higher Passenger Age – Shuttle buses for casinos and tour groups often have older riders who are more vulnerable to injury. Older bone structures are more susceptible to fracturing in collisions.
  • Less Crash Protection – School buses have stronger roofs and passenger cages. Transit and shuttle buses typically lack reinforcements, allowing more crushing.
  • Standing Passengers – Buses allowing standing riders have passengers vulnerable to being thrown into walls, windows, and other passengers in a crash. Any standing passengers significantly increase rollover injury risk.

Preventing Bus Rollover Accidents

While rollover crashes can never be fully prevented, there are measures bus companies can take to improve safety:

  • Install Seat Belts – Having seat belts and restraints for all riders could cut injury severity significantly. Yet few states have laws mandating seat belts on commercial buses.
  • Improve Driver Training – Better education for drivers on the causes of rollovers, proper turn techniques and regaining control after drifts could avoid some crashes. Many bus driver training programs inadequately cover rollover prevention.
  • Lower Speeds – Setting lower speed limits for buses, especially on curved roads and ramps, gives more reaction time if an incident occurs. Bus companies should monitor drivers for excessive speeding.
  • Equip Buses Properly – Having seat cushions, reinforced roofs, anti-shatter windows, multiple exits, and stronger passenger cages could all lessen injuries in a crash. Most commercial buses lack many of these safety features.
  • Address Mechanical Issues – Proper maintenance, frequent inspections, and immediate repairs help avoid tire blowouts, brake failure, and other problems linked to rollovers. Negligent bus companies often fail to adequately maintain their fleets.
  • Limit Standing – Requiring all passengers to be seated and wearing seat belts would prevent unrestrained injuries. Allowing standing creates unacceptable rollover risks.

If you’ve been in a bus rollover the bus company and driver should be held accountable if negligence or errors caused the rollover. An experienced bus accident attorney can investigate fault, build a strong case for liability, and make sure you receive full compensation for all losses.

Contact our firm for a free consultation if you or a loved one has been injured in a preventable bus rollover accident.

You can visit our office at 10208 101st Ave Ozone Park, NY 11416, or call now for a free consultation on (718) 441-5050.