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Federal agency investigating rash of fatalities near school buses

Last November, we discussed a crash in Mississippi that claimed the life of a 9-year-old boy on Halloween. He was struck as he crossed a road to get on his school bus. That crash was one of a number of similar incidents over a short period that killed children at or near school bus stops.

Now the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating that crash, as well as another we discussed in Indiana that occurred within the same week as the Mississippi wreck. That crash took the lives of three siblings -- twin 6-year-old boys and their 9-year-old sister. Another child was also struck, but survived.

The 24-year-old driver who struck the children as they crossed a two-lane highway to board their school bus was charged with reckless homicide. She pleaded not guilty at arraignment.

The NTSB is focusing "on determining the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes."

The family of the siblings who were killed is working on a state law that would increase penalties for drivers who don't stop for school buses. It would also allow reduced speed limits in areas where buses are picking up and dropping off children. The road where the four children were struck had a speed limit of 55 miles per hour.

The driver who was operating the bus when the boy was killed in Baldwyn, Mississippi, had its warning lights on and the stop arms deployed. Unfortunately, that didn't stop the pickup truck driver from fatally striking him.

The NTSB is investigating another tragic incident that happened last October in Georgia. A 10-year-old was killed and a 7-year-old was seriously injured by a car as they attempted to get onto their school bus. The sun hadn't yet risen when that crash occurred. That bus driver reportedly was also using the bus's warning lights and arms.

It remains to be seen what the NTSB's findings and recommendations will be. However, it's dangerous for the kids who are riding to school at the same time that many people are heading in to work. When buses stop outside of school zones -- particularly on busy roads and highways -- drivers may be going too fast to stop quickly when necessary.

However, that doesn't absolve them of criminal and civil culpability. Regardless of what criminal penalties at-fault drivers face, surviving loved ones should explore options for seeking compensation.

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