Like many parents of Colorado students, you may not give a second thought to putting your child on a school bus in the morning. Perhaps you went to school on a bus yourself, and aside from the bumpy ride, you are no worse for the wear. In fact, you may have looked forward to the extended ride as a time to chat with friends, read a book or finish your homework.
Unfortunately, instead of waiting at the bus stop with their children, many parents across the country are grieving at the start of this new school year following tragic school bus accidents that resulted in injuries and fatalities. The National Traffic Safety Board has concluded that the failures resulting in some of the more high-profile accidents involving school buses are not isolated to those school systems but may be a problem more widespread than parents would like to admit.
Your concern is well placed
Federal standards for school bus driver qualification are not difficult to pass. Local school districts may impose harsher restrictions, and nearly every driver must pass periodic drug screenings. The problem is that states may not be doing a thorough job of screening, investigating and following up with new drivers.
Many school systems use contracted bus companies, which are responsible for screening drivers both before hiring and periodically after they are hired. As a parent, you trust that the person driving your child to school has been carefully vetted for criminal behavior, medical conditions and psychological issues that may place your child in danger
However, investigations show that the following are factors in tragic school bus crashes:
- Bus companies failing to do thorough background checks on driver candidates
- Drivers failing to report medical conditions that should disqualify them from carrying a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)
- Bus companies knowing of medical conditions but allowing such drivers to continue operating school buses
- Bus companies ignoring or overlooking patterns of reckless or negligent behavior from their drivers, such as speeding or texting
- Bus drivers committing fraud by covering up a criminal past or other disqualifying conditions to obtain jobs
- Employers ignoring complaints from parents and students about the questionable behavior of their drivers
The NTSB has made recommendations for the safety of student passengers. This guidance includes the installation of seat belts, electronic stability systems, collision avoidance, and automatic braking controls.
However, even with these modern safety features, the lives of your children are in the hands of the driver. If an unsafe or unqualified person behind the wheel brings harm to your child, you have every right to take legal action against anyone who is responsible for the continued employment of a dangerous driver.