- The Stand Up for School Bus Safety Coalition — a group of parents, educators, bus drivers and community leaders affected by a deadly bus crash in Chattanooga, TN, two years ago — is saying that unsafe practices by Durham School Services, the company involved in the crash, go far beyond that tragedy.
- On Friday, the group issued a press release pointing to other safety-related incidents and citing the findings of a report showing that DSS and its UK-based parent company National Express Group have a crash rate that is 25% higher than others in the industry.
- In a Huffington Post piece, however, a DSS spokeswoman said the data in the study, conducted by Michael Belzer of Wayne State University in Michigan, is inaccurate and that by issuing a warning to school districts based on the results, they are sharing false information.
The coalition says it has been “pressing for accountability from Durham,” but is unhappy with the company’s response. Last fall, however, the company launched a website where parents or other community members can submit complaints or compliments about bus service and driver conduct. Earlier investigations showed that employees were not properly reporting or following up on complaints.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers have been moving in the direction of requiring seat belts on school buses ever since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Mark Rosekind said in 2015 that “seat belts save lives” and called for three-point seat belts on all school buses. Last year, legislatures in more than 20 states were considering seat belt policies, and in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget this year calls for spending $3 million to help school districts cover the cost of purchasing buses with seat belts. In the past, NHTSA’s position was that school buses did not need seat belts because the force from a crash is distributed differently in a bus than in a van or a light truck.