ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. — A few years ago, Quinton Higgins took a surprising career turn: He became a school bus driver.

Few would have guessed that Higgins would end up behind the wheel of a school bus considering what he had been through more than 20 years earlier. As an eighth grader, he was one of the survivors of the fiery Carrollton, Kentucky, bus crash in 1988.

Higgins’ church group was in a retired school bus that was built just a few days before the critical 1977 federal safety standards for school buses went into effect. As the group was on its way home from an amusement park, a drunken driver barreled head-on into the bus.

Gasoline from the bus’ punctured fuel tank was ignited, and fire quickly engulfed the bus as the passengers scrambled to get through the rear emergency exit. The front door was disabled by the crash and blocked by flames, and there were no other emergency exits on the vehicle. Twenty-seven people — mostly teenagers — died in the inferno.

In response to the Carrollton crash, numerous safety measures were implemented to improve school bus safety and to crack down on drunken driving.

More than 20 years after that disastrous day, Higgins had lost his job running a mailroom. At the suggestion of someone from his church, he decided to give school bus driving a try in 2010.

Four years later, Higgins is still shuttling students — and enjoying it — at Hardin County (Ky.) Schools. He also helps teach school bus safety to middle school students, and his story about the Carrollton crash makes his message all the more powerful.

Higgins discusses his school transportation career and his outlook on life in SBF’s “14 Fascinating Personalities in Pupil Transportation,” which appears in the November issue of the magazine and can be viewed online here.

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