How safe are Georgia school buses?

Are districts doing enough to get unsafe drivers out of school buses? (AJC file)

I sit across from AJC education reporters Marlon Walker and Eric Stirgus so I witnessed their efforts to collect school bus safety data. Their investigation led to an excellent story in the Sunday AJC that revealed Metro Atlanta school buses have been involved in more than 700 accidents this year, which breaks down to about two a day.

The tally may be higher as Walker and Stirgus discovered not every district reports bus crashes.  Georgia school districts are required to report every accident within 45 days to the Georgia Department of Education.

“But some districts report crashes sparingly — if at all — according to data the state released. The DeKalb County School District did not report any crashes in 2014 and only two in 2015, but reported 206 crashes from July 21 through November this year, more than any school district in Georgia,” according to the story.

Here is an excerpt from their piece:

As last month’s fatal crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., lingers on the mind of parents across the country, questions arise about whether Georgia school districts — and state education leaders — are doing enough to keep children safe to and from school.

Through November, 302 students and drivers were injured in school bus accidents in Georgia, according to state data. Most of the injuries were minor. The total is just three less than all of 2015, and surpasses the 231 injured in 2014.

Bus drivers were charged in about one in three crashes, according to the state’s data. The most frequent causes for the wrecks were drivers misjudging clearance, backing up the school bus improperly or following another vehicle too closely.

Concern about school bus safety grew after six Chattanooga elementary school children were killed days before Thanksgiving when a bus driver said he lost control of the vehicle and it flipped, crashing into a utility pole and a tree. Police charged the driver, Johnthony Walker, 24, with vehicular homicide, saying he drove “well above the posted speed limit of 30 mph.”

Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said officials have been in touch with several school districts that failed to submit complete bus data. Cardoza said the state uses the data to monitor districts and provide training where there are issues.

In metro Atlanta, APS, Clayton and Gwinnett bus crash data appears consistent over the three-year reporting period provided to the AJC.

An AJC analysis of the state’s data shows bus crashes occur more frequently, as measured by crashes per pupil, in smaller Georgia districts, such as Troup and Wayne county schools. However, metro Atlanta districts such as Fayette and DeKalb were among the top ten this year in bus crashes per pupil.

Anyone injured in a school bus crash potentially gets little financial relief. State law allows school districts to determine how much insurance to carry for students injured on a school bus. People in other vehicles involved in a school bus crash can sue the driver, but not the school district under state law.

“I think school districts should be playing by the same rules as counties and cities,” said Darl Champion Jr., an Atlanta-based attorney who has discussed the issue with some state lawmakers. “What can be more important than making sure if a child gets hurt, they can be protected?”

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

14 comments
Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Remarkably safe, considering that they have to drive around hurrying drivers and cellphone addicts, high on caffeine in the mornings, and tired and cranky in the evenings.  Not to mention hauling large groups of kids, many of whom have never been taught to be quiet during car rides, or are busy tearing up the seats, or groping each other in the back of the bus.  Add to that spineless administrators who don't back up the drivers with swift, stern discipline for serious misbehavior, plus having to deal with parents who are SURE their child is NOT a part of the problem, with the video tape right in front of them!


Bus drivers should be praised and supported!  I can recall two bus accidents (one with an empty bus) in the 43 years I have lived in this county.  And in the one accident  with children (a slide off a narrow road in the snow) the driver performed incredibly well, with no one hurt at all!

proudparent01
proudparent01

My guess is that students are less likely to be injured on a bus than in their parents' cars. Of course the supposedly great article doesn't go into that.  It only tries to spread fear by saying that there were 700 accidents this year. There are 1.6 million students in georgia schools. Nationally, 55% of students take buses. If that is true in Georgia then over 800,000 students take buses every day to and from school. The article says that around 300 students were injured in buses this year  and 231 last year. That comes to 330 million individual student trips to and from school. That comes to a tiny tiny tiny fraction of injuries. Can you imagine if all of those students drove in cars every day? It would be chaos. 


Once again don't pay attention to the Maureen trying to use data to create a problem that isn't there. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@proudparent01 Sort of funny that you accuse Maureen to do this as there are others who claim she supports "government schools" too much!

Astropig
Astropig

Making the buses safer would be a good thing (I've long wondered why seat belts are not required for buses)...But the bus was not to blame in the Chattanooga tragedy.By all accounts,it was operating normally and functioned properly.The school district was warned many times by parents and grandparents of student riders that the driver was operating recklessly and dangerously.They sent emails,they complained in person and they made phone calls.None of these actions did any good.This from the same system that has been desperately trying to wiggle off the hook for a rape scandal last winter by members of the Ooltewah basketball team.The problem in Chattanooga is a failure of the school system,not the equipment that they use.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig If my child were riding in a bus driven by a known unsafe driver, MY CHILD WOULD NOT BE RIDING THAT BUS!  And I would call the POLICE about the driver!

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig 

Sorry, but I'm going to go all liberal on you here temporarily.Please pardon me...



" If my child were riding in a bus driven by a known unsafe driver, MY CHILD WOULD NOT BE RIDING THAT BUS!"- Wascatlady


Astropig-(as a liberal)

(whiny,sniveling,pathetic liberal safe- space voice) 


"But what if that's the only way to get their child to school and...and what if the poor parent(s) is/are working three jobs and they are victims of the Tea Party and they don't have a car and they can't walk and..."


(Back to Realityville)


So see,my friend, it's always not as black and white as just "not riding that bus" (with exclamation points). Far better to just make the drivers follow the darn rules of the road and operate safely.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig


The system in Chattanooga is a special kind of bad.They have had scandal after scandal, they have paid off failed superintendent after superintendent and are almost certain to have several schools taken over by the state next year.Test scores place the HamCo system near the bottom of the state in achievement and several local towns are seriously studying breaking off from the system and forming their own school district(s)-presumably on the premise that they couldn't possibly do any worse.


One thing that passively tells you just how bad Chattanooga schools are-There are many,many private schools that have been founded and expanded over the last couple of decades and they are themselves bursting at the seams.Some have waiting lists as desperate middle class parents flee the terrible public system.It used to be the wealthy and upper middle class parents that sent their kids to the privates,but Astrowife's old company in Chatt had several blue collar,union worker folks that sent their kids to some of the area's most expensive schools to escape the system there.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @Wascatlady In fact, when my son had a knife held to his throat on the bus and the school system made  excuses, I removed my son from the bus.


School system wanted to keep the boy on the bus so he could be the "first in his family to graduate high school."  (He didn't make it.)

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Wascatlady @Astropig Our grandchildren never rode a school bus in our county, the home of the best public school system in east-central Georgia. Carole and I took them to school and picked them up from school every day. I had monitored the behavior on too many of our county's school buses for us to have done otherwise.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @CSpinks @Astropig


In my Florida county,the bus runs by my house at about 6:10 A.M. on school days.A good part of the year,it is pitch black.The kids are back off the bus at about 3:15 or so. (Then,they throw candy wrappers in my yard).Next year,after the local school will have been closed,they will be bussed 42 miles round trip to the center of the county.Those drivers will be candidates for therapy in May of 2018.Longer trips mean more time at risk for the students (texting drivers,drunk drivers,ancient drivers etc).I can only pray that we don't see any accidents when the change occurs.