School Bus Crashes Raise Concerns About Driver Oversight
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School Bus Crashes Raise Concerns About Driver Oversight

Monday, August 13, 2018By Richard Alexander

A special investigation report into several fatal school bus crashes in 2016 concluded that poor oversight of drivers contributed to these tragedies. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a meeting in May, 2018 to review the findings of this investigation. While the crashes occurred over three years ago, school bus accidents that result in serious injuries and fatalities are still a safety concern. In May, a school bus in New Jersey collided with a dump truck killing a teacher and a student. The driver is being charged with two counts of reckless vehicular homicide in that crash.

The NTSB reviewed findings related to school bus crashes that occurred in Baltimore, Maryland and Chattanooga, Tennessee. In the crash in Baltimore, a school bus hit a car and entered oncoming traffic, ultimately colliding with a transit bus. Both bus drivers were killed along with four passengers aboard the transit bus. There were no students aboard the school bus at the time of the crash. The investigation uncovered information that should have prevented the bus driver from operating a school bus. Most importantly, the driver had a history of seizures and experienced seizures while on the job a number of times. The NTSB determined that the fatal crash occurred as a result of the driver losing control while having a seizure. Additionally, the driver had been convicted of second-degree assault in 2011 and had his licensed suspended and revoked multiple times. The probe determined that driver’s history should have disqualified him from operating a school bus.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, six students were killed and 30 were injured when the bus ran off the road, struck a utility pole and ultimately crashed into a tree. The driver of the bus had several complaints filed against him for unsafe driving and speeding. The complaints were reported to the Department of Education, the school, and the bus contractor but there is no indication the reports were addressed. Speeding was noted to be a significant factor in the deadly crash in Chattanooga.

Both inquiries concluded that inadequate driver oversight was the primary cause of the collisions. The NTSB issued new safety protocols to address some of these concerns. They include requirements for driver licensing, medical examinations and other monitoring issues. Some of the recommendations also included equipment upgrades, such as lap-shoulder belts. To that end, the NTSB requested that all states require new large school buses to be outfitted with lap-shoulder belts.

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