Thousands of children in danger: the drivers of school buses in the United States abuse alcohol and drugs

In November 2018, three Hundred and Freeman went in the school bus and immediately realized that something is wrong. When the driver met her, she said he smelled of alcohol. After a few minutes the bus began to wag of the bands and to pass a red signal of a traffic light. Trista was in a panic when the bus with her and 26 other high school students was almost hit by a car, writes USA Today.

Тысячи детей в опасности: водители школьных автобусов в США злоупотребляют алкоголем и наркотиками

Photo: Depositphotos

“Everyone in the bus went crazy, shouting that it stopped. I’m really scared,” recalls 16-year-old three Hundred.

Trista, her older brother Cody and the other kids in the cabin began to frantically type SMS messages and call their parents. Rose Reynolds was 16. She called her mother, and her father, a firefighter-volunteer, contacted the police.

Other parents started calling the school transportation Department and 911.

The school bus driver Michael Ledbetter were more than two dozen students in the cabin when he was stopped and arrested for drunk driving in Dayton, Tennessee, in November of 2018.

The observer radioed the bus driver and told him to pull over. Police conducted field sobriety tests. Analysis later showed that the level of alcohol in the blood was 127, which is more than three times the legal limit for commercial drivers.

“Everyone makes mistakes,’ said Lisa Freeman, mother of Tourists. What if he crashed the bus and hurt the children? None of the parents do not want to receive such a phone call”.

59-year-old Ledbetter in July 2019 pleaded guilty that was driving the bus under the influence of alcohol. The judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail and 18 months probation.

More than 1600 children were in danger in 2015

In the whole country over 1,620 students in 38 States in 2015 risk on the part of bus drivers who were arrested or charged because they sat behind the wheel while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

School transportation group noted that buses are the safest way to travel of students to school. According to representatives of the groups, the majority of drivers would never put children at risk. None of these incidents resulted in the death of the occupant, and the majority of the students were injured.

Advocates of road safety saying that the officials should better monitor the work of drivers who are entrusted with the lives of children. Over the past five years, held a Stateline analysis of police records, court documents and news media, found that:

  • the police caught at least 118 drivers who had driven the bus under the influence of prohibited means;
  • more than one third of cases are associated with the bus accident. Among them: driver in new Mexico, who admitted to police that brought down banks on the road, and then crashed his bus after I almost drove off the bridge with 25 shocked by the children in the cabin;
  • just the result of accidents of school buses injured nearly three dozen students, some of them quite seriously: they took a trip to the emergency room;
  • although most of the 118 cases were associated with alcohol, about one third of the drivers allegedly took the drugs.

The problem was not solved

Many Federal agencies are unable to gather information about the drivers of school buses with violations.

Although school districts know about the individual cases. These data are usually not collected, aggregated or analyzed at the state level.

To measure the scale of the problem the Stateline contacted 268 agencies in 50 States and the district of Columbia, from the departments of education and transport to the state police and the judicial system to find out that about 11% of agencies unable to provide any information about the incidents.

In some States, the Agency conducted a search in their databases and have not found a single case, although Stateline found one or more. Other cited incidents that, in their opinion, were associated with the disruption of bus drivers. This was inaccurate because data was entered incorrectly or the police officer has established the wrong box on the form. Most could not even do a query to find such incidents.

“That has to change. States should collect these data and carefully keep track of them, ” said Ron Replogle, head of national law enforcement initiatives “Mothers against drunk driving”.

Hard work

Driving school bus was hard work. Drivers often deal with low pay, split shifts and part-time. They must pass special training, to have a commercial driver’s license (if the bus transported 16 people and more), be able to use a vehicle that can weigh up to 33 000 pounds (15 tons), and carry more than 70 students.

“You have a bus full of kids. They play, shout and throw something. It’s hard work,” said Dan Domenech, Executive Director AASA, the school superintendents Association.

According to Charlie Hood, Executive Director of the National Association of Directors of transport services for pupils, every day at about 480 000 school buses transport over 25 million students to and from school and other activities. Although many drivers work in school districts, about a third are employed in the private bus companies that contract with districts.

Hood noted that school buses are the safest way for children to get to school. He noted that it is rare to meet a school bus driver with impaired in the performance of official duties.

Many drivers were fired or they resigned after the arrest or arraignment. At least two dozen of the arrested bus drivers were allegedly under the influence of drugs prescribed by your doctor often drugs or tranquilizers. Others arrested the drivers of school buses used illegal drugs such as methamphetamine or heroin.

Individual survey carry out a very difficult

Federal regulations require that commercial drivers, including school bus drivers were tested for alcohol and drugs prior to employment, randomly during operation and after an accident under certain conditions. Supervisors must be trained in the detection of signs of alcohol or drugs. Bus drivers who do not pass these tests, you can lose your commercial driver’s license, at least for a while.

Illinois officials have suspended commercial license not less than 55 drivers of school buses in 2015 because they did not pass a test for drugs or alcohol. 11 others suspended from participation in the exam.

In large school districts where roads there are hundreds of buses, individual inspection of each driver would be “extremely difficult”, says the Director of the school group superintendents.

“The problem is that quite often there are cases when nobody sees the driver who came to check,” says Robert Berkstresser, an expert on commercial buses in San Diego, former Director of school transport.

“The driver can enter the system. The Manager looks at the screen and sees that the driver was, and everything,” he added.