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  • Writer's pictureThe Oakes Firm Publishing

Mass Transit Accidents: What You Need to Know

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

According to American Public Transportation Association, Americans take more than 9.9 billion trips on public transportation every year. While the mass transit system – including buses, subways, and trains – is one of the most efficient forms of transportation, it also can be the most dangerous.

Mass transit service providers are usually considered “common carriers” which means the law holds them to the highest standard of care to protect passengers from injury. These companies are also obligated to comply with all government regulations and must employ qualified drivers with safety training. When a mass transit driver/operator or their employer causes a crash, they can be held liable to you for money damages.

Negligence is a common factor in mass transit accidents – either on the part of the driver, owner, operator, or a governmental entity. Common causes of these types of accidents include:

  • Driver Error – i.e., Speeding, Violating Traffic Laws, Carelessness

  • Lack of Training or Supervision

  • Inadequate Vehicle Maintenance

  • Poorly Designed Vehicles

Bus and Subway Accidents

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB): “Nationwide, more than 700 million passengers — nearly the entire population of Europe — are transported by buses annually. Most travel to and from their destinations safely. Yet despite the strong safety record of buses, there were more than 250 people killed and 20,000 injured in bus-related crashes in 2009. From 2000-2007, there were 1,093 fatal accidents involving large buses, resulting in 1,315 fatalities and 3,471 injuries.”

While the mass transit system includes SEPTA buses and subways, it also encompasses regional bus services such as Greyhound. Mass transit services operating in Philadelphia are obligated to properly maintain their equipment and buses on a regular basis. The transportation company is held to the highest standard of care to prevent injuries to their passengers. These companies are also obligated to comply with government regulations and to employ drivers who are qualified to safely operate the buses. Accordingly, the bus company can be held liable for any accident that may result from their negligence.

If you are riding on a bus or subway at the time of an accident, you may not have the protection of a seatbelt or airbag, or you may not even have a seat and must use a poll or handrail as your only means of keeping your balance. You may suffer significant injuries if you are suddenly tossed from where you’re sitting or standing at the time of a crash or sudden stop. There is also the additional danger of the doors closing while portions of your body or clothing are still in the bus and/or subway. After being injured in any type of mass transit accident, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

School Bus Accidents

School buses carry our most precious cargo – children. According to School Bus Fleet, an estimated 471,461 yellow school buses provide transportation service daily in the United States. About 25 million elementary and secondary school children ride school buses to and from school each day. This compares to projections from the U.S. Department of Education of K-12 enrollments in the Fall 2018 of about 57.2 million public school students and 6.7 million private school students.

Every parent’s worst nightmare is learning their child’s school bus was in an accident. According to data from National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), school bus-related crashes killed 117 people nationwide in 2018. Of people injured in school bus-related crashes from 2010 to 2018, about 36% were school bus passengers, 8% were school bus drivers, and 51% were occupants of other vehicles. The remainder were pedestrians or bicyclists.

Safety experts say that riding the bus to and from school is still the safest option. According to the American School Bus Council, students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely on a bus. However, there is an alarming trend supported by data and statistics that drivers routinely pass stopped school buses and that the consequences of this behavior can be fatal. Every year, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) conducts a one-day count of illegal school bus passing incidents throughout the United States. In 2018, school bus drivers in 38 states recorded 83,994 incidents during the one-day count. You should always contact an experienced attorney after you or a loved one is injured in a school bus accident.

Train Accidents

Following the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, Positive Train Control (PTC) is currently being installed nationwide across the rail network, but the deadline has been pushed back. The PTC system sets out to prevent rail collisions, derailments due to excessive speed and accidents caused by track switch errors. This Safety Act also regulates working hours for railroad workers, certifications held by certain members of the railroad workforce and other safety measures.

According to the US Department of Transportation, there are about 5,800 train-car crashes every year, most of which occur at railroad crossings – these cause 600 deaths and injure about 2,300 people each year. Although safety rules and regulations are supposed to be enforced, train injuries and fatalities continue. Many accidents are the result of the negligence by the conductor or railway, violations of safety guidelines, stalled cars on the tracks, defective train parts, lack of maintenance, or track and signal defects. Both railways and commuter lines are considered common carriers which transport the public for a fee. These common carriers are held to the highest standards of care to prevent injuries to their passengers.

There are a variety of reasons why train accidents occur, most of which take place at crossings when cars try to "beat" the train. While every case is unique, the ten most common causes of train accidents include:

  • Negligence

  • Human Error

  • Reckless Pedestrians & Drivers

  • Mechanical Failure

  • Unsafe Speeds

  • Improperly Installed or Maintained Tracks

  • Derailments

  • Unprotected Railroad Crossings

  • Stalled Cars on the Track

  • Suicides

Train conductors have a responsibility to their passengers, this includes their actions or inactions. This responsibility also extends to the train company. Was the conductor trained properly? Did he/she drive under the influence? Did he/she have adequate rest? Were they distracted?


The Oakes Firm is dedicated to helping injured people and grieving families obtain answers, justice, and full compensation. If you or a loved one have been involved in a mass transit accident, don’t hesitate to contact us now. We are available 24/7 for a free case consultation to evaluate your potential claims. Learn how an award-winning Philadelphia personal injury lawyer at The Oakes Firm can get you the help you need and the money you deserve.



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