File photo

File photo

Although school buses are the safest form of transportation, accidents do happen. We hear about them often in the media — and rightly so — though it is important for the public to be aware that the accidents that get reported make up a minuscule fraction of the school bus trips completed across the U.S. every day.

One consideration that may get lost in reporting is that among school bus accidents — although never having any in the first place would be preferable — many are minor.

Evidence of this is shown in a recent newspaper investigation into the accident records of a school system’s transportation department in Maryland.     

A recent news analysis of Carroll County Public Schools shows that of nearly 200 accidents involving the district’s buses from April 2016 to March 2019, only a small number of them were serious.

The Carroll County Times analysis found that 13 accidents within that time frame involved injuries (which could include those as minor as a student bumping their head if the bus brakes too hard.) Meanwhile, 31 accidents resulted in property damage that cost at least $3,000. Most noteworthy is that none of the accidents that took place during that time span resulted in fatalities.

Michael Hardesty, the director of transportation services for the school system, told the newspaper that “In our view, one preventable accident is one too many, … But given the responsibility and what these drivers are doing every day and throughout the year, it is, in my view, an excellent record.” He added that the district works hard to maintain that record.

And our readers understand just how hard that work is. The difficult situations bus drivers deal with on a regular basis run the gamut, including but not limited to stop-arm runners, distracted drivers taking other risky maneuvers around buses, challenging weather conditions, and, at times, difficult or violent behavior from parents and students.  

One recent, unfortunate example of the latter occurred in Missouri in April, when a mother of a student, with help from her friend, decided to attack a bus driver who had transferred her daughter to a different bus after she got into a fight. (Her daughter reportedly told her that the bus driver told another girl to jump on her. The bus driver denied having said that in an account she shared with KMOV.) The women were arrested, and the mother faces several charges.

Interestingly, the bus driver wasn’t even supposed to be on that route. Her employer asked her to step in and cover it that day, apparently due to the initial bus driver on the route reporting student behavior problems and saying he couldn’t drive it anymore.

The previously mentioned Maryland school system’s record is likely very similar to many others across the U.S. And, although the media (including us) cover school bus accidents and negative incidents fairly often, we at SBF do so in part for instructional purposes and with the understanding that despite a handful of unfortunate and tragic incidents, school buses are the safest vehicles on the road, particularly given all the training school bus drivers constantly undergo and the obstacles that they have to contend with on the road every day.

Those obstacles can sometimes lead to drivers struggling and needing a refresh on their skills. Effective retraining when preventable accidents occur could mean saving a driver’s job. Stay tuned for an article with tips on this topic, coming soon in our July issue.

It’s a remarkable amount of responsibility these drivers have, and amid the challenges this brings, they should be commended and provided continuous support. We strive to do our part by providing valuable information on the latest developments in the industry to help student transportation continue to be the safest method of transportation.

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