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School Bus Accidents in the News: Are Your Children Safe?

Three separate school bus accidents on Monday – in Indiana, Washington State, and Ohio — have left a student and a bus driver dead, and scores of students injured, some critically.  The three crashes have fueled concerns about school bus safety.
In the Indiana accident, the bus was mangled when the driver hit an overpass without braking. In Washington, the bus rolled over after it veered off the road. In Ohio, the bus tipped and then rolled over onto its right side into a ditch.

None “of the buses were equipped with passenger seatbelts, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not require in larger school buses.” But those accidents have now renewed calls for passenger seat belts on all school buses.
Federal law requires seat belts on school buses weighing less than 10,000 pounds, but 80 percent of the nation’s school buses do not fall into this category. Six states — New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Texas and Louisiana — have laws requiring seat belts on all school buses.  But just because seat belts are installed, doesn’t guarantee they will be used.

For example, New York leaves the decision of whether the seat belts will be used to local school boards.  On the contrary, the Texas law calls for disciplinary action against students who do not use them. California and Florida laws, while requiring seat belts in school buses, state that employees of school districts are not responsible for requiring students to buckle up.
The debate about seat belts on school buses has been going on for years. Despite increasingly strict requirements about helmets for bikers, seat and lap belts, and car and booster seats for children in passenger vehicles, school bus safety has not kept pace. In an ABC News interview, NHTSA spokesperson Lynda Tran said of school buses: “They are safer than their parents’ cars.” But Dr. Phyllis Agran, a pediatrician, told ABC that about 17,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each year from injuries sustained in school bus injuries.
Defenders of the status quo regarding school bus safety contend that statistics are on the side of the 24 million children who take a bus to school each day. But statistics fly out the window if it is your child who is involved in an accident.

Two of my three children were involved in school bus accidents and I have to tell you that although they were minor, it was a chilling experience to be notified that your child has been in a school bus accident. Parents have a right to expect that when they put their children on the school bus in the morning, they will get to and from school safely. They certainly don’t expect serious injuries or worse.
Seat belts have become a hot topic, but I can tell you as a former school administrator that they are not the only bus safety issues. Buses tend to be a “no man’s land” when it comes to supervision. It’s difficult for drivers to steer the bus while at the same time police kids’ behavior. Because there is no adult supervision on the bus other than the driver, school buses are fertile fields for bullying, profanity, fistfights, and other dangerous behavior, such as walking around while the bus is in motion and throwing things.

If the bus driver reports misbehavior to the school, it will be handled with an appropriate consequence. But not all bus drivers take the trouble to write a report. If your child tells you about misbehavior on the bus, take it seriously and report it to your principal or assistant principal. It’s not just annoying — it’s potentially dangerous. Be sure to inquire what steps the school takes to emphasize school bus safety. And make sure you reinforce them at home.
You may also inquire about the supervision of bus drivers.  If the school district owns a fleet of buses and the drivers are district employees, they are usually better screened, supervised, and monitored than if the district contracts with a private company for their buses and drivers. If you have reason to believe a bus driver is engaging in dangerous or suspicious behavior, be sure to report it to your school district immediately.
The following bus rules should be emphasized by the school and reinforced by you with your child at home.

  • Kids should go directly to their seats. They should remain seated and facing forward for the entire ride.
  • Children should speak quietly and make every effort not to distract the driver.
  • Students should not throw things on the bus or out the windows, or play with the emergency exits.
  • The aisles of the bus should be clear at all times. That means no walking around or placing objects that may cause someone to trip.
  • In an emergency, children must listen to the driver and follow instructions.
  • Students should never put head, arms or hands out of the window.
  • At their stop, children should wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting up. They should then walk, not run, to the front door and then exit using the handrail.
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School Bus Accidents Threaten Kids’ Safety

A string of school bus accidents has raised questions about the safety of school children. For years, the yellow school bus has been the icon of safe transportation for children, but with the recent accidents, parents can no longer be so sure.

• On March 4, a school bus driver ran a traffic signal in Harrisonburg, Va. This caused the bus he was driving along with another car to crash into another school bus. The incident resulted in 28 people hurt. The 70-year-old driver has been charged with reckless driving.
• On March 3, 11 students had to be hospitalized, some with neck and back injuries, when their school bus overturned, about 40 miles from Atlanta. The bus was carrying 27 middle and high school students.
• On Feb. 27, a school bus turned too fast and flipped over, outside Washington, D.C. The driver and 5 middle school students had to be hospitalized.
• On Feb. 19, a school bus crashed into a van in Cottonwood, Minn., careened into a pickup truck and then tipped over. The accident resulted in 4 students killed and 14 others injured.
Because of these recent incidents, an old issue has been rekindled: should seat belts be mandatory in school buses?
There is no federal law that makes it mandatory for large school buses to have seat belts. At state level, there are only 6 states that require seat belts on the yellow buses — California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics say that 25.1 million children ride 474,000 school buses to and from school annually, yet, on average, less than 8 passengers die in bus accidents.
NHTSA data indicate only 8,000 children injured in school bus crashes annually. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, reports that 17,000 children seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms due to school bus-related accidents.
Although 42 percent of injuries were related to crashes, nearly a quarter happened as children were boarding or leaving school buses. Children were also hurt when they slip and fall, or when bus drivers apply brakes too hard or turn corners too sharply.
Bus manufacturers estimate that seat belts would add about $2,000 to the cost of a new bus. Retro-fitting an existing bus would cost more, perhaps $3,400.
Some parents believe it’s not the school bus, but the school bus driver that they should worry about. There is no federal law requiring background checks for drivers, but a number of states and individual school districts do have the requirement. They also require drivers to undergo extensive training on various aspects of their job, frequent driving record checks, and pass periodic drug testing and medical exams.
The president of the National Coalition of School Bus Safety says concerned parents should get involved at the local level. It is the local school board that has the power. SBA1 300x224 School Bus Accidents Threaten Kids’ Safety

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School bus hits girl during drill

VINELAND — A 10-year-old girl recruited by a school bus driver to help during an emergency evacuation drill was injured when she was hit by another school bus.

Bus driver Edelberto Romero told Vineland police Officer Baron McCoy that he pulled into his designated drop-off point at Johnstone Elementary School about 9 a.m. Friday. Romero said he put the bus in neutral, applied the emergency brake and began to give his student passengers instructions for the drill.

While talking to the youngsters, Romero, 62, of the 1700 block of Woodcrest Drive, said he heard people screaming, “Stop the bus,” and noticed his bus was moving forward. It struck the bus in front him, injuring a student recruited to help with the drill.

The other bus driver, Jose Torres, 67, of the 700 block of East Almond Road, told police he had asked the 10-year-old student to assist in the drill and posted her at the rear of the bus to help other students use the rear emergency exit.

While helping the students exit, Torres heard the yelling, saw the bus moving toward him and jumped out of the way, according to a police report released Wednesday.

The 10-year-old girl tried to pull her legs inside the bus, but her right leg was caught between the buses. She was taken to South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center, where she was treated for leg pain, police said.

No other students were reported injured, according to the police report.

McCoy inspected the bus’ emergency brakes and confirmed they were in working order, indicating that Romero did not apply the brake correctly, police said.

McCoy did not issue tickets. He gave his report to the district’s transportation supervisor John Morris and Johnstone assistant principal Joseph Poma.

Superintendent MaryAnn Banks said Wednesday “the district has taken appropriate action” in the matter, and declined further comment.

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Man stops runaway bus, helps ailing driver!

ELM GROVE, Wis. — A Good Samaritan is being credited with helping to save the life of a school bus driver in an incident that occurred last week. 

Matt Collins was on his way to a business meeting on Sept. 15 when he saw a school bus drift through an intersection, and it appeared to him as though no one was driving the vehicle.

When Collins ran up to the bus and opened the door, he found the 65-year-old driver slumped over without a pulse and two special-needs children on board, BrookfieldNow reports.

He put on the bus’ parking brake, and Collins and a bystander pulled the driver out and began administering CPR. Police Chief Jim Gage told the news source that an officer was on the scene quickly after receiving a 911 call and used a defibrillator to shock the driver’s heart.

Paramedics then took the bus driver to a hospital while police and bystanders stayed with the children on board the bus until another driver arrived to continue transporting them.

A relative of the school bus driver reported to police that he is still recovering in a hospital. Gage said that the quick response from civilians and skilled emergency responders resulted in the incident’s positive outcome, according to BrookfieldNow.

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Davenport school bus caught on camera rolling away!

DAVENPORT, Iowa—

Some Davenport parents are outraged after they say the bus their children were riding in began rolling away after the bus driver forgot to put it in park.

The mother of one of those students is speaking out after she says she caught her daughter’s school bus driver forgetting to put the bus in park, causing it to roll. Rachelle Elmore says she was filming the bus after several days of the driver not putting out the stop sign but what she caught on her cellphone was more than she expected.

It’s shocking video caught by Rachelle Elmore.

“I was video taping the bus because we had some prior safety issues,” said Rachelle Elmore.

Rachelle, the Mother of a Garfield elementary third grader was expecting to pick her daughter up Wednesday from the bus stop at 37th street and Bridge avenue when she says the driver of the bus did the unthinkable.

“The bus started to roll, the bus driver got out of her seat and walked toward the back of the bus to address students I thought and the bus started to roll, she had left it in gear,” said Elmore.

The bus was full of students at the time, including Rachelle’s 8-year-old daughter Grace.

“Two kids were fighting in the front seat and the bus driver got up and the bus started rolling,” said Grace.

Grace and her friend left to watch from the window.

“We were like knocking on the window trying to get my Moms attention,” said Grace.

Grace’s Mother Rachelle said, “The buss had probably rolled a good ten feet and there were parents screaming the bus is rolling, that’s when she got back in the seat and yanked the brake,” said Rachelle.

Rachelle says this isn’t the first incident with the driver of bus 48.

“Contacted the school, the bus lot and notified them about the previous safety issue of not putting out stop sign and kids and cars dodging each other,” said Elmore.

The young Mother now hopeful something will be done before children get hurt.

“Somebody please stand up and pay attention, these are our kids they can’t be replaced,” said Rachelle who went on to say, “I understand there was a fight in the bus absolutely she should have been concerned, however that doesn’t mean get out of your seat with the bus in gear, you just endangered every child on that bus,” said Rachelle Elmore.

Rachelle says Curtis Wheeler of the bus company was on scene after the incident Wednesday because of the fight on the bus. However, she says when she attempted to talk to him about the bus rolling he told her to call his office.

We contacted the Davenport school district, their offices were closed. However, we hope to follow up with them on Thursday.

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Lynx bus in crash with tractor-trailer downtown.

Bus 21 300x168 Lynx bus in crash with tractor trailer downtown.Twelve people riding in a Lynx bus were injured Wednesday morning in a crash with a tractor-trailer in downtown Orlando.

All 12 were sent to the hospital with various non-life threatening injuries, police said. Initial information shows the tractor-trailer driver was a fault, said police spokesman Sgt. Vince Ogburn

Orlando police briefly shut down Hughey Avenue near Amelia Street while debris from the crash was cleared. An investigation is ongoing.

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Driver in deadly school bus crash fined $600

The school bus driver trainee facing a second-degree vehicular homicide charge in the wreck that killed a Temple High School student was sentenced to a year of probation and a $600 fine Tuesday after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Kenneth Ross Herringdine, 60, of Roopville pleaded guilty to failure to maintain a lane as part of negotiated plea in connection with the Oct. 4 wreck. A message left with Herringdine’s lawyer, Tommy Greer, wasn’t immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.

James Rashawn “Ray Ray” Walker, 17, of Temple died when the bus overturned on Highway 113 near Sharp Creek Elementary School.

According to the accident report, Herringdine indicated he looked down and when he looked back up, the vehicle was going off the road. He also indicated that he applied the brake and tried to get the vehicle back onto the road but overcorrected. The bus then struck a culvert and overturned.

The bus was carrying 15 students, many of whom were vocational students at Temple High.

Georgia State Patrol had turned its report on the accident over to the Carroll County Solicitor’s Office for review three months ago. The report, which is several hundred pages long, was completed by the Forsyth-based Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team.

After reviewing the report, Carroll County Solicitor Doug Vassy decided not to prosecute on the vehicular homicide charge but to negotiate a plea for failure to maintain a lane. The plea won’t suspend Herringdine’s driver license. Vassy noted after Tuesday afternoon’s court proceedings that Herringdine has driven buses for many years and has no criminal record or negative marks on his driving record.

“I feel like he made a mistake,” Vassy said.

He said the report showed that the wreck occurred when the rear tire of the bus left the road.

“At that particular location there is a very steep dropoff,” Vassy said. “It would have been very difficult for anybody to have gotten that vehicle back on the road once the tire went off the road. I felt like the road played a significant contributing factor in the wreck itself. I also took into consideration there was no evidence of any speeding.”

While some people indicated after the wreck that they thought Herringdine was an unsafe driver, Vassy wasn’t aware of the Carroll County Schools Transportation Department receiving any negative report about his driving prior to the incident. He also noted that three days before the wreck Sheri Davis of Temple, who was the driver trainer on the bus, gave Herringdine a good report, indicating he didn’t need additional training.

“He passed a check by [the] head of training at the school system that morning,” Vassy said. “She certainly didn’t see any reason he would be unsafe to drive people.”

He acknowledged that witnesses indicated Herringdine looked tired and was yawning while driving. But he said nothing appeared to be wrong until the tires left the road. Tests showed that Herringdine had antihistamines in his system.

“It was a trace amount and did not in my mind contribute to anything in this accident,” Vassy said.

Earlier the day of the fatal crash, the report indicated Herringdine had hit a dog the morning of the wreck.

“If he swerved to miss the dog, he probably would have flipped the bus,” Vassy said.

He stressed that he took the investigation “very seriously.”

“These are very difficult cases when you’re trying to decide what to charge somebody with,” Vassy said. “I didn’t feel it rose to the level of criminal intent to charge him with vehicular homicide in the second degree.”

GSP spokesman Gordy Wright said previously that Herringdine didn’t have the endorsement needed on his commercial driver’s license to operate a school bus at the time of the wreck.

Wright said his license showed a “P” for passenger endorsement, but not an “S” for school bus endorsement. Both endorsements need to be on the license in order to operate a school bus.

Herringdine and Davis were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the crash investigation.

County school system spokeswoman Elena Schulenburg said that Herringdine has not driven a bus since the accident and is employed by the school system as a custodian.

“It was just a tragic accident,” Vassy said. “I felt it didn’t rise to the level of a vehicular homicide in the second degree. I thought it was a just outcome as far as Mr. Herringdine is concerned. Mr. Herringdine is very remorseful about this particular matter.”

He then referenced a statement Herringdine made in court about wishing it had been him and not Walker.

Walker’s parents, Diana Lockett and Antonio Walker, have obtained attorney B.J. Bernstein, who is representing the family in a civil lawsuit.

“We are extremely disappointed by today’s proceedings in which Mr. Herringdine pled guilty only to failure to maintain a lane,” Bernstein said. “The family is very upset that Mr. Herringdine was not also prosecuted for vehicular homicide in the second degree. … Ray Ray’s family is concerned for the safety of other children in Carroll County, and as we’ve seen with the CRCT cheating scandal, sometimes school systems try to hide their mistakes rather than admit to the truth.”

She and the family only learned of the plea deal just before Herringdine’s arraignment.

“The solicitor invited the family and myself to meet with him about two months ago to give input and the solicitor’s office notified the family today there would be arraignment,” Bernstein said. “However, until l got into the courtroom, we didn’t know there was a plea was already negotiated.”

Although an agreement has been made in the criminal proceedings, she and the family still have a lot of questions. Those questions include how the wreck happened and what actions were taken afterward.

“We got to look at the report,” Bernstein said. “We really want to know what happened. The report released before indicated previous problems with this driver. Now you have a situation where he’s getting probation and a $600 fine for failure to maintain lane that would not suspend his license. There’s not really any repercussions here.”

She also has questions about the training Herringdine received and his driving record with the school system.

“The family doesn’t want to rely on rumor,” Bernstein said. “They want to know.”

Vassy acknowledged meeting with the family.

“I met with them several weeks ago and discussed this whole thing,” Vassy said. “They wanted me to prosecute him for vehicular homicide but I chose not to do that.”

Lockett said she is “outraged” with the the outcome of the case.

“I at least thought he was going to lose his license,” she said.

Lockett feels Vassy did a poor job in making his determination and that he spoke too highly of Herringdine during the court proceeding.

“He just spoke about how much of an outstanding citizen Kenneth Herringdine was,” she said. “I don’t think he even cared about my feelings or his [Walker’s] father’s feelings. I think he was more concerned about Kenneth Herringdine.”

She also expressed concern about Herringdine being able to keep his license.

“I guess Carroll County won’t be happy until he kills somebody else’s child because he’s gotten away with killing my baby,” Lockett said. “I am hurting. My life has stopped and everybody else’s life has went on. My life is at a standstill. My child is gone. I’ll never see my son again.”

She described Walker as a “wonderful, loving person.”

“He never met a stranger,” Lockett said.

Doni Harper’s daughter, 16-year-old Brittany Harper, was also injured in the bus wreck and was friends with Walker. Doni Harper went to court Tuesday. Like the Walker family, she was disappointed.

“I think it’s absurd,” Harper said. “I just think it’s ridiculous with the charge he has now, he’s able to keep his CDL. … I personally think he should have been charged with injuring every child that was injured on that bus.”

Her daughter suffered from a “small brain bleed” and had her lower jaw broken in two places. She explained that Brittany was knocked out during the crash and actually woke up on Ray Ray’s leg.

“She’s very upset because Ray Ray was one of her good friends,” Harper said. She has post-traumatic stress disorder from this. I don’t think Mr. Herringdine really understands what he’s done to these kids. A lot of these kids are seeing therapists or on medication now and that’s why I feel like we got no satisfaction from what happened today. My daughter will have to live with this for the rest of her life.”

She described the way the court proceedings were handled as being “like a sneak attack” and feels Herringdine “has gotten off way too easy.” While he apologized in court, she has not yet forgiven him.

“I’m still working on that because I’m still angry at him because of what my daughter has to go through,” Harper said. “I’m just not ready to totally forgive him, but I am working on it.”

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Metro driver convicted in fatal accident.

Bus 11 Metro driver convicted in fatal accident.A Metro bus driver was convicted of vehicular manslaughter on Monday, stemming from an accident that killed one person and injured three others.

Trial for Bridgette Robinson, 46, was scheduled to begin on Monday; however, as part of a plea agreement, Robinson pled no contest to vehicular manslaughter and had a vehicular homicide charge dropped.

She was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and had her sentencing scheduled for August 1. She faces up to 90 days in jail.

Robinson was dropping off students at Woodward Career Technical Center on Sept. 13, 2010 and thought she had set the parking brake when she went to the back of the bus.

Instead, the bus began to roll, hitting and killing Sherry Pettit, 40, an employee of First Care Ambulance, as she was assisting a special needs student.

April Travis, 37, also an employee of First Care, was injured in the accident and taken to the hospital. Two students on the ambulance suffered minor injuries.


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Driver error, brake issue cited in I-80 crash

   

 An investigation into a tour bus crash last week on Interstate 80 just north of Fairfield revealed a combination of driver error and partial brake failure, according to the California Highway Patrol on Wednesday.

The crash took place May 23 after the driver of the United Coach Tours bus, 38-year-old Yunzho Ma, swerved from the fast lane of the freeway across the traffic lanes to the right and off the roadway, just east of the North Texas Street overcrossing, according to the CHP.

More than a dozen people reported minor to moderate injuries after the bus shot across the shoulder and through a barbed wire fence before finally stopping on a road that boarders the freeway.

“It’s a two-fold situation,” said CHP Officer Rick Weaver, the crash’s investigating officer.

Ma told officers at the scene that she had been having problems with the bus’ brakes prior to driving off the roadway, according to the CHP.

Following the accident, Weaver said the bus was put up on blocks and a complete vehicle inspection was performed by the CHP. According to Weaver, investigators found that the bus’ right-rear brake pad had been worn very thin.

“The bus had not been properly maintained,” Weaver said, noting that that was something the company was responsible for. “The driver doing the check out would have no way of knowing that without taking off the wheels.”

Still, Weaver said the bus had some braking power, and the failure alone was not responsible for the crash.

“I think she probably could have pulled safely to the shoulder,” Weaver said before adding that nothing was in the path of the bus to warrant the driver to perform such “drastic” maneuver.

However, because of this discovery, Weaver said the CHP is calling for a full inspection of the South San Francisco terminal where the tour bus is based.Authorities added that Ma was also exceeding the posted speed limit, and is thought to have been driving approximately 70 mph at the time of the crash.Weaver said that although the driver has been determined to be at fault, it has not yet been determined if she will be cited.

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Always Remember to Put The Parking Brake On!

Bus 8 0011 300x221 Always Remember to Put The Parking Brake On!   

Ok, here’s another one from the “uhm wtf?” file. A bus operator for Greyhound buses crashed into a wooded area –but get this, the bus operator forgot to set the parking brake after she parked the bus at a travel center in North Carolina.

The bus traveled backwards across Highway 61 and somehow wasn’t hit by cars traveling on the highway. The bus came to rest in the wooded area on the other side of the highway.

Fox8 news in Greensboro, NC has the details on the incident. Can you imagine the shock the bus driver must have received? She parks the bus, heads into the travel center, grabs some food, maybe a scratchoff, uses the restroom, comes outside and finds her bus traveling backwards across the highway.

Maybe Greyhound should play the same (very annoying) announcement you hear in the San Francisco airport when you take the airtrain. As it pulls into the station, we hear “we are entering the station, set luggage cart brake to on”.

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