When we send our kids off to school, we'd like to think that they will arrive at class and return home safely. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are much safer than cars.
School buses are highly visible and come standard with flashing red lights, extended stop signs, and cross-view mirrors. In addition, the law prohibits drivers from passing school buses when the stop signs are extended.
While school buses are generally safe, bus drivers don't always behave responsibly. Sometimes, their reckless behavior puts children in danger.
Children put in harm's way by impaired school bus drivers
Stateline is a nonprofit organization that reports on state policy trends. The organization recently conducted a study that found that drunk or drugged school bus drivers have placed more than 1,620 children in harm's way in 38 states since 2015. Oklahoma was one of the 38 states.
One school bus driver in Bixby was arrested after driving a school bus full of students while intoxicated. According to Oklahoma News 4, the district's transportation director pulled the driver aside due to reports that he was running late on his route. The director then smelled alcohol on the driver's breath and immediately had him undergo drug and alcohol screening.
The bus driver reportedly transported 66 students that day. He was arrested and charged with DUI and child endangerment. Luckily, nobody was injured due to the driver's actions.
According to an article in pewtrusts.org, an Oklahoma City bus driver caused a multi-vehicle crash in 2015 after driving while high on synthetic marijuana. The driver just dropped off six students and was on his way to pick up dozens more when the crash occurred. The crash caused severe injuries that left another driver in a wheelchair for two years.
Across the U.S., police have arrested at least 118 impaired school bus drivers since 2015. More than a third of those arrested caused crashes that injured dozens of children. The Stateline study also found that at least 260 school bus drivers failed drug and alcohol testing or refused to take the tests.
Safety advocates call for tougher regulations
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety are now calling on state and federal officials to crack down on impaired school bus drivers. Both safety advocate groups have proposed the following measures:
- Ignition interlock devices on school buses
- Advanced passive alcohol detection software on school buses, which detects alcohol impairment through a driver's breathing and touch
- A ban on consuming alcohol within 8 hours of operating a school bus
- Drug-free-workplace policies in school districts
- Training staff to recognize and report signs of impairment
- Mandatory drug or alcohol testing for bus drivers suspected of impaired driving
- Data collection from state and federal agencies
The Oklahoma attorneys at Lawter & Associates Attorneys at Law PLLC represent people injured by reckless school bus drivers. If your child was hurt in a crash while riding a school bus, or if you were struck by a school bus driver, contact our law firm to find out how we can help you. We offer free case evaluations and won't charge you any fees unless we win your case.