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South Texas

School Bus Rollover Danger: Electronic Stability Control Not Required In Buses

In 2013, I was hired to represent a young person who was catastrophically injured in a school bus rollover accident.  Since then, I have been troubled by the lack of bus safety regulations.

The recent bus crash near Laredo, Texas caused me to research the current safety regulations that apply to buses.  I was disappointed to find out that new safety regulations are taking too long to be enforced.  Because the crash in Laredo has been described as a “rollover,” I focused my attention on the issue of stability control technology.

History of ESC

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) was introduced in passenger automobiles in the 1990s.  Since then, ESC technology has saved thousands of lives.

According to technology company Bosch, ESC is “is an active safety system that detects when a driver is about to lose control of a vehicle and automatically intervenes by braking any of the four wheels and/or reducing engine torque to help the driver stay on course.”  Bosch began producing ESC in 1995.

Over the years, various automobile manufacturers have began to implement ESC into their vehicles.  In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required that all new light-passenger vehicles have ESC technology.

ESC By the Numbers

According to a  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, ESC reduced  fatal car crashes by 35 percent and reduced fatal sport-utility vehicle crashes by 67 percent.

According to a University of Iowa study, 34 percent more drivers maintain control of vehicles with ESC than without.

ESC and Rollover Prevention

The  Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute reports that ESC reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers of SUVs by 80 percent, 77 percent for cars.

Is ESC required for Buses?  Not Yet.

ESC is required for all light-passenger vehicles.  The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), enacted in 2012, directed NHTSA to consider an ESC requirement for buses. However, long delays in progress mean that ESC won’t be required in buses until 2018.  It is unknown whether the bus involved in the recent crash near Laredo, Texas had ESC technology.  However, the bus was not required to be manufactured with ESC.

What about School Bus Rollover Dangers?

Unfortunately, school buses are not required to have ESC.  The NHTSA’s position is that (1) requiring ESC would make school buses more expensive and therefore, (2) schools would buy less school buses, and (3) and more children would get to school using methods other than buses, which are less safe than buses.

I respectfully disagree with the NHTSA.  The New York Times reported that it would cost only $269 additional dollars to build a bus with ESC.  I think that’s a small price to pay for a safer school bus.