- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) this week published its findings regarding two fatal school bus crashes occurring in Baltimore and Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2016 and has discovered issues with the drivers in both cases. In the Baltimore crash, the driver lied about a history of seizures, which was a contributing factor in the crash. In the Chattanooga case, reports of the driver’s speeding, erratic driving patterns and cellphone use while driving all contributed to the crash, School Transportation News reports.
- The report noted that these incidents highlight the need for better oversight of transportation service providers in all school districts and recommended improved management of drivers and the increased use of event data recorders to document incidents.
- In terms of mitigating the effects of crashes, the report recommended that states require lap/shoulder belts on all sizes of school buses, and that buses be equipped with electronic stability controls and collision avoidance technology with automatic braking.
While school buses remain statistically the safest way for students to travel to school, no administrator wants to have to face the possibility of a fatal bus crash on his or her watch. The newest NTSB offer some valuable recommendations about what district and school leaders should look for as they upgrade their fleets as well as information they need to consider when hiring drivers or monitoring their activities to make sure student safety is a priority as they drive.
The issue of installing seat belts on buses, which has long been a matter of debate, seems to have been laid to rest with this most recent recommendation from the board. In the past, many officials have argued that seat belts are not necessary because of the compartmentalization that occurs in frontal collisions. However, only about half of school bus collisions occur in this manner.
Though these new recommendations affect school bus activity, administrators also need to keep in mind that most school bus related fatalities affect people who are not passengers on the school bus. According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “other victims of school bus crashes such as bicyclists, pedestrians, and others that are outside of the bus makeup 91% of the fatalities. Almost nine-tenths of school bus-related fatalities are other motorists.”