School buses, whether full-size or van-based, have blind spots that require close attention by bus drivers. While exterior mirrors help drivers to see some areas they also cause problems by blocking a driver’s view in other areas. Left turns are a particular challenge because mirrors, as well as roof pillars, can sometimes hide the presence of smaller objects such as pedestrians.

Regrettably, news media reported that on the afternoon of Monday, February 12, 2024, a van-based school bus collided with an elderly pedestrian causing fatal injuries on Talbot Street in St Thomas, Ontario.

While minimal information was provided about the collision, a photo of the school was shown in an article published by London’s CTV News. Given the rest position of the van-based school bus it would appear that the bus was making a left turn from Talbot Street onto Manitoba Street when the impact occurred. Such left-turns are a real challenge for bus drivers. Roof pillars and large exterior mirrors produce visibility obstructions to the bus drivers. It is necessary for drivers to shift the position of their upper bodies to the left and right of the obstructions to see beyond them. Bus drivers are aware of this and perform this action successfully in the vast majority of cases. But eventually blockage of the line of sight leads to a failure to detect a small object just as a pedestrian.

In an article posted to the Gorski Consulting website (“School Bus Visibility Obstruction Could Kill You”) on February 17, 2023 we discussed this problem in some detail. However, as it occurs so many times, the content of articles on the Gorski Consulting website is not viewed by many and so this warning was mostly ignored. Many users of the public road need to be reminded of these visibility obstructions. Not just school bus drivers but also pedestrians, cyclists and any other persons that may interact with a turning bus. This includes mobility limited persons who ride medical scooters that are not high enough to be readily visible.

A rider of a medical scooter is often in danger of not being seen because of their low height. This problem is compounded at an intersection when vehicles such as school buses have visibility obstructions.

As mentioned numerous times on the Gorski Consulting website, serious and fatal collisions are never reported with enough proper detail so that the those using public roads can be educated about how and when their lives could be put in danger.