Municipalities and motor carriers need to provide better oversight of school bus driver qualifications and operations, a recent special investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board concludes.
NTSB looked at two school bus crashes in November 2016 that resulted in a combined 12 fatalities and 37 injuries. In one crash, the driver was speeding while using a cellphone and veered off the road in Chattanooga, TN. In the other, a driver in Baltimore suffered an epileptic seizure – a disqualifying medical condition – and previously had obtained a fraudulent commercial driver’s license.
In its initial findings, released May 22, NTSB states that both school bus operators were private for-hire student transportation carriers performing contracted services for their respective districts. NTSB also states that the Chattanooga bus was not equipped with passenger lap/shoulder seat belts, while the bus in Baltimore had no collision avoidance system with automatic emergency braking.
The agency offers a number of safety recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and many others.
“The school bus is still statistically the safest way to get to school,” NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said in an agency press release. “This is not about choosing another option. It is about closing gaps in school bus safety. Unsafe drivers are a hazard, unsafe systems allow hazards to persist and systems cannot be safe without effective oversight.”