Back to school: Knowing West Virginia’s school bus laws

Motorists and parents should understand the laws surrounding school bus safety in West Virginia.

In August of this year, a white pickup truck struck a school bus in Monroe County, West Virginia. According to WVVA, the bus was flipped on its side along Route 219. Twelve students were on the bus at the time of the incident. The students and the bus driver suffered minor injuries. The driver of the pickup truck and a passenger in the truck were taken by helicopter to a local hospital.

As school is back in full swing, it is imperative to know how to safely share the road with school buses as well as the bus operator's and school district's responsibilities. Failing to understand these laws can lead to a devastating accident.

For motorists

When a school bus is stopped on the road with its flashing lights turned on, West Virginia law mandates that approaching vehicles must stop before reaching the bus. Vehicles may only begin moving again when either the school bus driver motions them on or the bus itself turns off its lights and begins to move. Violating this law is, at best, a misdemeanor. Worse, it can result in striking a child crossing the road.

School bus driver laws

According to Distraction.gov, West Virginia school bus drivers are not permitted to use a handheld device or text while driving. This is part of the state's blanket laws regarding distracted driving, which prohibit all drivers from doing either behavior. School bus drivers who engage in such distractions are risking the lives of students as well as the lives of anyone else on the road. School bus drivers must also abide by the state's laws regarding drinking and driving.

Inspection regulations

There are a number of other safety regulations as outlined by the state's laws. For example, West Virginia requires any bus that transports students to be inspected at least twice a year. The inspector must be someone who is qualified and employed with the State Department.

Who is liable after an accident?

Each of these guidelines is in place to prevent a school bus accident from occurring. Unfortunately, as the recent incident in Monroe County illustrates, crashes involving school buses do occur. When they do, injured victims are entitled to seek compensation from the responsible parties. That could include any of the following:

  • The driver: An intoxicated, distracted or otherwise reckless driver could be criminally and financially liable.
  • The school district: Failing to properly train drivers or inspect the vehicle could result in liability.
  • The bus manufacturer: A defect in the bus, such as faulty brakes, could have been responsible for the crash.

In West Virginia, victims of negligence have two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. Anyone who has suffered from such an incident should consult with an attorney.