Every school day, over 22 million children will ride a school bus. Every day, the parents of these children are asked to trust that the school bus driver will perform their job safely and professionally. The last thing parents should have to worry about is whether the bus driver is drunk. However, after three different school bus drivers in Long Island, New York were arrested for driving under the influence in just one month, many parents are now wondering how safe is their child's school bus driver? In the latest DUI arrest, the school bus driver crashed into a tree while the bus was loaded with seventh grade children, injuring a little girl.
Approximately 150 people die every year from auto accidents involving school buses. Of school bus accident deaths, 80% involve occupants of the bus or another vehicle while 20% involve pedestrians. Half of all school age pedestrians run down by a school bus were between the ages of 5 and 7.
There are no known statistics identifying the number of children who suffer serious personal injuries every year from school bus related accidents. Undoubtedly, the numbers are much higher than the number of fatalities each year from school bus accidents. Nor do we know how many school bus related accidents involve bus drivers that were drunk. However, we do know that 28 people die every day in America from drunk driving. We also know that about every 90 seconds, someone is injured in an auto accident involving a drunk driver.
Just last month, three different school bus drivers were arrested for drunk driving after crashing their buses--all in Long Island. On October 4th, a school bus driver was arrested for drunk driving after he crashed his bus into a home with five children on board. On October 11th, another school bus driver was arrested for drunk driving when, after crashing on an expressway, police found an open bottle of vodka on the bus. Less than two weeks later, another Long Island school bus driver was arrested for drunk driving after crashing his bus into a tree injuring a seventh grade girl.
With three school bus accidents involving alleged drunk bus drivers, all within one month, and all within a 100 hundred mile radius, the topic of school bus driver safety has rightly gained national attention. With the heightened attention should come severe penalties for any school bus driver convicted of drunk driving on the job. For those employers whose bus driver causes serious personal injury or death because their driver was intoxicated on the job, those employers should also be held fully responsible under the law for all the harm caused by their intoxicated driver. Going forward, school bus companies that are paid to transport children must re-examine their bus driver safety precautions--assuming they have such precautions already in place. These safety precautions should include intense pre-employment screenings of school bus driver applicants and closer monitoring of existing school bus drivers, including periodic drug and alcohol testing. Unless these companies do a better job hiring and monitoring their school bus drivers, there is little reason to expect the number of accidents involving drunk school bus drivers will reduce.
NBC Local New York, Alleged Drunk Driver Crashes School Bus On Field Trip, October 23, 2012.
CBS Local New York, L.I. Bus Driver Charged With DWI After Backing Into Tree Limb, October 22, 2012.
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, School Transportation Safety Related Crashes, 2008 Data.
MADD Website, Statistics, Viewed November 9, 2012.
National Coalition For School Bus Safety Website, School Bus Fatalities And Injuries, View November 9, 2012.