A field trip ended in multiple injuries on Oct. 19 when a school bus went off the road as it was headed southbound on U.S. 25, about 4 miles from Ware Shoals. The bus reportedly struck a fence and utility pole and then fell down an embankment.

Twenty-nine children were on the bus, along with five adults who were chaperoning the trip. The kids are students at Westwood Elementary School, which is located in Abbeville County.

According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, nine students and four adults, including the bus driver, were transported to area hospitals with injuries. Some were airlifted to a Greenville hospital.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is still investigating the accident. It wasn’t reported whether the bus, which is a 2015 model, contained seat belts. However, the crash comes as the subject of seat belts is once again getting media attention.

Speakers and attendees at a recent conference of the National State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services discussed a study that indicated that seat belts on school buses, in addition to the obvious safety advantages, improve student behavior — not just while aboard the bus, but once they get to school. They also increase driver retention.

Of course, as one speaker noted, “Putting belts on buses helps — requiring kids to use them is another matter.” Drivers would have to enforce their use and be given the authority to do so.One study found that when seat belts were mandatory in school buses, passenger injuries dropped by 57 percent. Further, there were 75 percent fewer crashes caused by school bus drivers.

School bus accidents can all too easily be serious and even fatal for those riding in them and those who share the road with these large vehicles. If a loved one is the victim of a school bus crash, it’s essential to determine what entities and individuals can and should be held liable. An experienced South Carolina attorney can provide valuable guidance.