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Devastating Atlanta Church Bus Accident

1175023_magnoliaA recent bus accident has brought mourning to a community and reminds us of the fragility of life. We are deeply saddened to learn of a devastating crash that has left an Alabama community in shock, many injured and a young life taken. A teen church group awas on its way from Huntsville, Alabama to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for a mission trip to Botswana when the bus overturned onto another vehicle. There is currently no information about what caused this accident and no information about those in the other vehicle.

The church bus had about 38 people on board, mostly teens and young adults. One report noted that 33 out of 38 passengers on the bus may have been injured and one teen lost her life. The reports are not clear on the precise numbers. We do know that many injured passengers were taken to various hospitals around Atlanta. Some were released after treatment. One report indicated that two victims sustained traumatic injuries and were still in the hospital. The young woman who lost her life in this bus crash was a recent high school graduate. Her family has shared some of her journal entries that reveal the fine person that she was. Apparently, she had only recently received a scholarship to Auburn University.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be taking on the investigation of this crash. The bus is not registered as a commercial vehicle with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Rather it is registered as a private passenger-non-business vehicle which carries different requirements than those associated with commercial vehicles. . The church has provided information to authorities saying that there were ten drivers for the three buses they own which are registered for interstate travel. The church apparently has no record of prior accidents or issues concerning their transportation history.

Whatever the cause, if safety measures could have helped save lives, they should be implemented. Every year, many adults and children lose their lives or are injured in bus accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation have had some success getting seat belts at least for commercial vehicle drivers. Section 392.16 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSAR) states that a commercial motor vehicle that has a seat belt at the driver’s seat should not be driven without the driver buckling up.Drivers wearing safety belts are likely better able to handle the vehicle in an emergency than those who are not wearing seat belts. Safety belts are relatively inexpensive and provide important protections for drivers and for passengers. It is said that nearly 85% of drivers are now wearing seat belts in commercial motor vehicles.

We have often written about the dangers inherent in many buses and the need for safety measures. There has been a longstanding push for seat belts and better exits and window access for passengers in an emergency. Some buses are now equipped with better passenger safety in mind. And this accident was so devastating as the bus literally turned over, that safety measures may not have helped. But it does remind us that any loss of life or serious traumatic injury that can be avoided by safety measures on buses, should be a priority.

The Mount Zion Baptist Church and the entire community are in our thoughts and they move forward to the funeral of the young victim. Scholle Law sends our heartfelt sympathies to all the families and community directly impacted by this accident and our condolences to the family of the young teen whose life was cut short by this tragedy. We hope that in healing from this tragedy, the community will find ways to honor her life and to help those who may need ongoing support for their injuries.