[Analysis] Bus Accident Statistics in the United States

In the United States, buses are relied upon to transport large groups of people and carry our children to and from school.  Annually, as many as 700 million people travel by bus.  Passengers, other motorists, and their families have a reasonable expectation that they will safely arrive at their destinations.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

While collisions involving buses make up only a small portion of the total fatal accidents each year, the results are usually tragic.  In fact, the NTSB has found that, per vehicle, buses and other commercial motor vehicles are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than passenger vehicles.

Even when passengers are kept safe, poor sightlines from the vehicle and negligent bus drivers can put pedestrians, cyclists, and passenger vehicle occupants at risk. In fact, historically, only 13 percent of those killed in bus accidents are occupants.

When, where, and how often do buses crash?

At Paulson Coletti, we’ve represented families who have lost loved ones in bus collisions and we have seen the devastation that a deadly bus accident can bring.  As a service to those affected by or interested in bus safety, we’ve compiled the most comprehensive list of bus accident statistics and information available online.

How Often Do Buses Crash?

On average, there are nearly 60,000 bus accidents each year in the United States.  While most of these collisions result in property damage only, hundreds of people are killed and thousands more are injured. Researchers estimate that as many as 14,000 injuries occur in these crashes. Data shows that even though the number of bus crashes has increased over time, there are fewer fatal crashes.

From 2000 to 2018, fatal bus crashes have declined by 29 percent, while injury crashes have risen by 15 percent. In 2000, there were 323 fatal bus crashes, compared to 230 fatal bus crashes in 2018. However, in the case of injury crashes, the numbers rose from 13,000 in 2000 to 15,000 in 2018. Bus safety is regulated at state and federal levels and school buses are known to be some of the most regulated vehicles on the road. That may contribute to the decline of fatal bus crashes.

Year Fatal Bus Crashes Injury Crashes Property Damage Only
1998 288 13,000 40,000
1999 313 14,000 48,000
2000 323 13,000 42,000
2001 289 11,000 42,000
2002 274 13,000 45,000
2003 288 14,000 44,000
2004 276 13,000 39,000
2005 278 12,000 38,000
2006 303 11,000 41,000
2007 280 11,000 45,000
2008 251 11,000 48,000
2009 221 9,000 47,000
2010 247 12,000 42,000
2011 243 13,000 43,000
2012 252 12,000 42,000
2013 282 18,000 48,000
2014 235 11,000 57,000
2015 259 14,000 53,000
2016 231 16,000 51,000
2017 231 15,000 51,000
2018 230 15,000 50,000
2019 231 N/A N/A

How many people are killed or injured by buses each year?

From 1998 – 2019, 6,770 people were killed and an estimated 567,000 people were injured in crashes involving bus accidents.

Year Fatalities Injuries
1998 329 30,000
1999 373 36,000
2000 357 29,000
2001 331 25,000
2002 331 30,000
2003 337 31,000
2004 315 29,000
2005 340 23,000
2006 337 21,000
2007 325 24,000
2008 311 24,000
2009 254 20,000
2010 278 27,000
2011 284 24,000
2012 282 23,000
2013 320 38,000
2014 283 22,000
2015 297 24,000
2016 290 35,000
2017 276 25,000
2018 262 27,000
2019 258 N/A

However, most of those killed and injured are not bus occupants. During this time frame, a little under 10 percent of those killed were passengers on an involved bus, while the remaining deaths were occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians.

[Interactive Map] Fatal Bus Accidents in the U.S.

While the FMCSA provides general incident data for a larger range of years, it merely provides totals.  In order to map data and dive deeper into the issue, we analyzed fatal bus collision data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Fatal Bus Crashes by State

During this time period, more fatal bus crashes occurred in New York (156) than in any other state. This could be, in part, due to the difficulties in navigating New York’s heavy traffic and bustling streets. In 2011, the World Wide Tours bus crash killed 15 passengers and injured 17 more on a highway in the Bronx, New York area. The bus was moving at high speed when it swerved off the road, flipped on its side, and struck a metal sign, which sliced through the length of the bus at the passenger seat level.  The 2011 Bronx crash became known as one of the deadliest bus crashes in America. Driver fatigue was determined to be the cause of the crash, and World Wide Tours was responsible for “inadequate safety oversight.”

California, (150), Texas (145), and Florida (139) follow New York with the most fatal bus crashes and also have some of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. In 2018, a truck driver lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a church bus in south Texas, killing the bus driver and 12 of the 13 passengers in the bus. The truck driver had been impaired by marijuana, combined with the misuse of prescription drugs used to treat seizures and panic disorders.

State Fatal Bus Crashes Deaths
New York 156 172
California 150 179
Texas 145 211
Florida 139 146
Pennsylvania 93 103
Georgia 69 75
Illinois 64 72
New Jersey 63 68
Maryland 49 49
North Carolina 45 51
Michigan 44 48
Ohio 42 45
South Carolina 38 46
Arizona 37 40
Tennessee 36 53
Wisconsin 34 38
Indiana 33 41
Missouri 33 36
Colorado 32 32
Virginia 32 34
Nevada 31 32
Washington 30 35
Massachusetts 29 30
Minnesota 24 29
Mississippi 24 34
Oklahoma 22 28
Kentucky 21 25
Connecticut 20 21
Alabama 19 21
Louisiana 18 24
Oregon 17 25
Utah 17 18
Delaware 14 17
Iowa 14 18
Hawaii 12 12
Arkansas 10 16
District Of Columbia 10 10
West Virginia 8 8
Montana 7 10
Maine 6 8
Nebraska 6 9
New Mexico 6 16
Alaska 4 5
Kansas 4 4
South Dakota 4 4
North Dakota 3 4
Rhode Island 3 3
Vermont 3 3
Idaho 2 2
Wyoming 2 4
New Hampshire 1 1

Which Bus Type is Involved in the most Fatal Collisions?

While fatal crashes involving buses of any kind have fallen sharply since 1975,  some types of buses are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than others. School buses and transit buses are most likely to be involved in fatal collisions.

From 1975 through 2019, 4,702 school buses and 4,702 transit buses were involved in fatal crashes in the United States.

Year School Bus Motorcoach Transit Bus Van-Based Bus Other Bus Type Bus Type Unknown
1975 130 29 131 18 19
1976 123 30 130 13 23
1977 126 33 123 14 25
1978 143 54 143 14 18
1979 150 37 123 21 16
1980 117 38 150 14 11
1981 110 48 150 20 14
1982 104 37 106 31 11
1983 99 41 105 40 22
1984 119 48 103 33 17
1985 126 29 116 33 33
1986 101 33 99 29 24
1987 132 29 115 46 31
1988 105 31 103 30 18
1989 109 32 120 25 25
1990 112 27 114 19 17
1991 106 39 86 26 17
1992 98 36 113 21 17
1993 112 28 82 21 20
1994 106 23 105 12 12
1995 109 23 101 23 15
1996 124 35 115 32 20
1997 117 37 109 15 19
1998 112 38 115 16 8
1999 139 38 106 19 17
2000 120 40 128 20 17
2001 119 38 104 16 15
2002 95 35 100 26 18
2003 113 26 104 30 18
2004 111 35 85 26 22
2005 111 38 83 34 14
2006 118 33 105 22 27
2007 109 35 113 16 8
2008 116 20 92 12 11
2009 89 38 77 9 8
2010 116 36 84 11 4
2011 98 41 68 25 10 3
2012 102 34 78 30 7 2
2013 114 44 82 28 10 4
2014 91 32 79 9 21 4
2015 99 34 93 14 18 5
2016 88 17 98 6 19 6
2017 73 13 97 31 16 4
2018 85 15 85 26 20 3
2019 89 5 84 46 8

Causes and General Bus Safety Tips

Potential causes of bus crashes can include faulty bus equipment, company policies and regulations, roadway and weather conditions, and driver-related problems such as distracted driving or driving under the influence. One of the most significant causes is driver fatigue when a driver’s performance and senses are impaired from mental or physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Driving fatigued increases the risk of crashing, and is especially common for bus drivers traveling longer distances or operating on tight schedules. Buses are harder to control, which can cause other drivers to enter into their lane prematurely or rear-end the bus. While buses are generally safe and have regulations and designs in place to increase passenger safety, preventable crashes occur every year as a result of driver error.

Whether you are sharing the road with a bus or driving one, keep these tips in mind to increase safety:

  1. Don’t tailgate a bus; always keep a considerable distance between vehicles when you are driving behind a bus. There is less visibility behind a bus, and that makes it difficult to brake in time.
  2. Recognize warning signs of fatigue and don’t brush them off. Ignoring them will put passengers at a risk, as well as others on the road.
  3. Follow the speed limit, and choose caution over impatience.