WASHINGTON, D.C.— The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the school bus driver’s failure to follow standard rail crossing safety procedures was the probable cause of the March 28, 2000, grade crossing tragedy that claimed the lives of three Georgia schoolchildren. In its final report, the NTSB said driver Rhonda Cloer failed to stop the bus before crossing the railroad tracks. As a result, the bus was rammed by a CSX freight train traveling approximately 50 mph. Seven children were aboard the bus. Of the four who survived, three were seriously injured and one suffered only minor injuries. Cloer also was seriously injured. In addition to not stopping at the rail crossing, the NTSB reported that Cloer might not have heard the train because she had the radio on. An additional factor in the crash was the school district’s failure to monitor the performance of its drivers. The NTSB reported that the Murray County School District, which employed Cloer, did not identify or correct improper behavior. Cloer reportedly failed to stop at the rail crossing at least eight times before the day of the fatal incident, based on video provided by the camera on her bus. The NTSB report suggested that a stop sign placed at the crossing might have prevented the accident. (In the wake of the crash, flashing warning lights and a gate have been added to the crossing, which only had crossbucks at the time of the crash.) The NTSB also said the school district was deficient in its school bus route planning, failing to identify hazards on routes and to eliminate the necessity of crossing railroad tracks. In its final report, the NTSB issued a series of safety recommendations. To the states: In cooperation with the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), develop and implement initiatives for passive grade crossings and school buses that include installation of stop signs and enhanced driver training and evaluation, including review of onboard videotape when available. To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Implement a rulemaking to prohibit radio speakers used for music or entertainment from being placed adjacent to drivers’ heads. Evaluate the feasibility of incorporating automatic crash notification systems on school buses and, if feasible, proceed with system development. To NASDPTS: Encourage the association’s members to use the Federal Railroad Administration’s Web-based accident prediction system or the states’ hazard indexes for grade crossings when developing school bus routes. Notify members of how and why the driver’s lap-shoulder belt tore in this accident and of the potential consequences of large longitudinal distances between lap-shoulder belt anchor points. For the full report on the Tennga crash, visit the NTSB’s Website at www.ntsb.gov
LINDON, Utah — Seven-year-old Jacob Lindow was not expected to live after he slipped in the snow and fell under the wheel of his school bus in December. The first-grader was listed in critical condition following the accident. But six weeks later, the youngster had been released from the hospital and was making a remarkable recovery — and this after doctors treating him for his accident injuries discovered a tumor on his spinal cord. “We call it a miracle, a series of miracles. He’s the answer to a lot of people’s prayers,” Ben Lindow, the boy’s father, told the Deseret News. The tumor growing against Jacob’s spinal cord affected the blood supply to his small intestines and kidneys. However, at the time of the accident, Jacob had experienced no symptoms of the tumor’s existence. Had it not been for the school bus accident, the tumor may not have been discovered before damage was done. Instead, surgeons were able to remove most of the tumor, which was benign. More surgeries are ahead for Jacob, including procedures to rebuild the facial bones around his eye. The bus crushed Jacob’s left eye, broke his pelvis and both legs, and did severe damage to his internal organs. While his left eye is still intact, the optic nerve was severed and he permanently lost sight in that eye. Doctors say Jacob’s face will heal so completely that it will be difficult to tell he was ever so badly injured. Jacob has been walking, albeit little, and his parents are optimistic about the future. Dick Belliston, transportation director for Alpine School District, said Jacob’s parents have been very supportive of the district and the driver, despite the tragedy they have endured. “They have been so wonderful through this process,” he said. “They’ve been extremely supportive and kind to the driver, and thoughtful and concerned about his feelings.” Belliston said that there have been many prayers and thoughts on Jacob’s behalf. “We’re just grateful that it’s turned out as well as it has,” he said.
What do you think is the most common workplace injury in the school bus industry? From the Forum at www.schoolbusfleet.com/forum. Manual strain leads to CTS
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) seems to be the most common injury in the school bus field. I began having problems with carpal tunnel after only four years of driving a school bus. My arms would ache, especially at the wrist. My grandmother, who was a school bus driver for 30 years, was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome several years ago. She has to wear arm braces at night because of the pain. People don’t seem to realize that the continuous action of opening and closing the door, shifting gears and reaching over to push the switches can cause this problem, but my grandmother is living proof.
School Bus Driver
Forest City (Ark.) Public Schools Slips and falls are most common
The number one injury contributing to missed time has to be slipping and falling on the steps of the bus. We don’t get a lot of snow and ice around here, but we do get lots and lots of rain. Water and mud can be just as slippery as snow and ice at times. Add in the fact that many lots are not lighted as well as they could be and many of them are not paved, and you have a really good prescription for injuries. CTS is less of a problem since the inception of automatic transmissions and powered door mechanisms. Most other injuries are caused from improper use of safety equipment or just plain carelessness.
Cowlitz Coach Service
Castle Rock, Wash. Maintenance bumps and bruises
I think the most common injury is related to the field of school bus mechanics. I think that they get a lot of injuries like small cuts, bruises, fractures and broken bones from parts falling on them. If drivers or passengers were injured by the bus design, it would be from tripping over the doghouse on front-engine transits. That would lead to some bruising.
School Bus Website Master
Shelton, Wash. 5 most prevalent injuries
1. Poorly designed driver seats and improper ergonomics in the driver area cause back, leg, ankle, hip and knee injuries. These problems can occur when the driver’s seat is not directly in front of the steering wheel or when there is a lack of adjustable steering wheel or foot controls. 2. We still hear complaints of CTS, even though almost all of our buses have air doors. 3. Slip and fall injuries. 4. Injuries caused by special-needs students (scratches and bruises, mostly). 5. Mechanic injuries occurring in the garage.
Director of Transportation
Oceanside (Calif.) Unified School District
BALTIMORE — Baltimore School District officials restored about 15 of the 30 suspended bus routes assigned to one of its private contractors after conducting a complete inspection of the 20 school bus companies that transport the city's students. The Allender Group had 30 of its 32 bus routes suspended last week after one of its school buses crashed into a house, injuring nine and prompting the district's inspections. The bus involved in the crash was not supposed to be carrying students because of a broken window on the right side. The vehicle had failed a Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) inspection earlier that day and was ordered to stay off the road. However, there was an apparent misunderstanding between Allender and the school district. The bus had been repaired, but the driver didn't realize it had to be re-inspected before it could transport children. Driver James Fields Jr. told police he blacked out during the accident. Police are going to subpoena the driver's medical records for investigation. Both Fields and the Allender Group could face criminal charges related to the accident. Following the crash, the school district allowed the company to retain only two routes - a number it could comfortably monitor. After the investigation, however, district officials said they feel it's now safe to reinstate some of Allender's routes. "We feel more comfortable with increasing the number of [Allender] buses because many of the problems with them have been corrected," Edie House, a district spokesperson, told the Baltimore Sun. "We felt based on information we've been getting from our investigation that it's safe to start increasing the company's routes." Still, the MVA announced that it would destroy license tags of 17 Allender buses as a result of the inspections. Allender, one of the city's largest contractors, owns 34 buses in all. Representatives of the company were unavailable for comment. The district's investigation of private contractors was aimed at verifying bus maintenance and inspection documentation. Said Vanessa Pyatt, Baltimore School District spokesperson, "The district expects the companies and buses will meet the city and state regulations and is unable to say what the consequences will be should a company not meet them.”
TOPEKA, Kan. — Nine children were killed by their own school bus or by a passing vehicle during the 2000-2001 school year, representing a 59 percent drop from the previous year and the lowest total in more than a decade. Twenty-two students were killed in loading/unloading zone accidents last year. The statistics, gathered annually by the Kansas State Department of Education, indicate that five children were killed by their own school bus, while four were fatally injured by passing motorists. Five of the nine deaths involved students who were 6 years old or younger. The following descriptions summarize the circumstances of the fatal incidents.