Last month, a potentially very dangerous mistake occurred in Waterloo, Iowa: A school bus driver mistakenly dropped off an autistic girl at the wrong location. Unsupervised, she wandered more than a mile away and was found at a local Target. Fortunately, she was entirely unharmed.
According to the story, this happened due to multiple failures:
There is ample evidence that the sort of emissions and pollution created by gasoline and diesel vehicles - like school buses - can cause significant health problems among people exposed to the emissions. What has been harder to demonstrate is whether or not those health problems include mental health as well.
On May 17, 2018, a horrific collision occurred between a school bus and a dump truck on a New Jersey highway. It left two dead, including 10-year-old Miranda Vargas, as well as injuring everyone on the bus as well as the driver of the dump truck. Video footage showed the driver of the school bus had driven erratically, taking the bus across lanes at such an extreme angle that it was nearly perpendicular to the road. This is what caused the dump truck to hit it.
Any time a child dies on-board a school bus, it's a tragedy - but it's particularly tragic when the death would have been preventable. That is the case in the death of Terissa Gautney on Feb 28, 2018, on a school bus in Bartow, Florida. Terissa was a special needs student with medical issues, who experienced a silent seizure followed by respiratory distress.
Most of the time, when a bus driver does something that endangers students, it's due to poor judgement. Occasionally, however, it can be malicious - as we saw earlier this year in Farmington, Utah. In a deeply disturbing incident, a 14-year-old biracial child was dragged by the bus for approximately 175 feet, after the 78-year-old driver closed the door on his backpack, trapping him outside.
Maintaining a school bus fleet is one of the single most costly items in a district's budget, but it's one which is absolutely necessary. Schools must run buses and must provide transportation to any families who ask for it. This places a big burden on schools; a burden which is only growing heavier as districts struggle to find enough bus drivers for their routes.
School districts around the nation continue to suffer from the school bus driver shortage, with no relief in sight. It may even be getting worse. In a recent online poll of School Transportation News readers, an astounding eighty-four percent of districts reported that they were short of bus drivers.
All school bus drivers will spend plenty of time in training sessions throughout their career, with much of it mandated by local or state laws. However, sometimes you may have one or more drivers who need more intensive retraining to get them back on track. This can be a tricky proposition because retraining carries a stigma, and can easily be seen as punitive or threatening.
In other situations, that might not be so much of a problem - but with the school bus driver shortage still a major issue, you really need to retain the drivers you have! As such, it's important to conduct your retraining sessions in ways that maximize their potential to improve driver performance, without causing any new problems.
On June 17, 2019, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed Senate Bill 166 into law - fully legalizing the use of school bus stop arm cameras across the state. As with similar laws in other states, these cameras can be used to identify and penalize motorists who disregard the stop arm, endangering children with illegal passing maneuvers.
Maine is the 19th state to pass such a measure. Combined with the six states who leave it up to the districts, fully half the states of the union now allow for stop arm cameras in some form. However, controversy still swirls around these laws. Will SB166 actually reduce illegal passing near school buses... or is it merely monetizing the endangerment of children?