Buses are considered the safest way to transport students to school, according to transportation groups. But a recent Stateline investigation found that over 1,620 schoolchildren in Michigan and 37 other states were placed at risk since 2015 by school bus driver arrested or cited on charges of driving while drug or alcohol impaired. This conduct poses a risk of serious motor vehicle accidents involving children and other vehicle occupants.
Fortunately, there were no deaths and most of the students were not injured. But officials must improve their monitoring of drivers transporting children to school, according to safety advocates. Many state agencies were unable to compile information on this problem.
But over a third of these cases involved a bus accident. Almost three dozen students suffered injuries in these crashes and some of these injuries were serious enough to require a trip to the emergency room.
Police apprehended 118 drivers driving a bus when impaired. Most of these cases involved alcohol impairment. Almost a third of the drivers, however, allegedly took drugs which included heroin or methamphetamine. Police arrested at least 24 bus drivers for being impaired by doctor-prescribed drugs such as narcotics or tranquilizers.
Other impaired bus drivers were found through random screenings. Some of these were administer after they finished driving their routes. At least 260 drivers in five states also failed or refused to undergo screenings since 2015.
Many times, drivers were stopped while transporting children, were on the way to pick them or just dropped them off. There were cases where police stopped the bus after it was seen weaving in traffic or other concerned motorists called 911.
This problem and these risks are not going away. Each school day, approximately 480,000 buses transport over 25 million students to and from school and extra-curricular activities. Bus driving is also stressful, and drivers must contend with low pay, split shifts and part-time hours along with children who are misbehaving on the bus.
Victims of an accident caused by an impaired school bus driver or other motorist may be entitled to compensation for medical treatment and losses. An attorney can help them pursue their rights in court.