Deadly school bus crash raises safety concerns

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Kids from K-12 in the Savannah-Chatham School District fill school buses more than 200 days out of the year twice a day.

A fact transportation officials are well aware of.

“We carry the most precious cargo in the world and all drivers need to be sure that they protect 100% of their students 100% of the time,” Cathy Benson, the Senior Director of Transportation for SCCPSS, said.

That’s why the state of Georgia requires employees to enroll in the 12-6-6 program to ensure every driver is trained accurately.

“Just 12 hours in the classroom, six hours driving a bus without students, six hours driving a bus with students,” Benson said.

And they don’t stop there.

“We add additional hours with our trainers,” Benson said. “We have a safety and training manager that we even take the drivers out on Saturday’s to make sure they’re familiar with the routes.”

Before officials even let drivers enroll they dig into their past driving records and catch anything that may be suspicious.

“The first thing we do is check their MVR’s,” Benson said. “If they have any serious violations within a three year period we do not bring them on.”

More than 300 drivers are also monitored at all times.

“We have GPS’s on our buses, so if we have drivers speeding or driving erratically we can pull up what we call a path report and check that and we do,” Benson said.

With all the training, annual seminars and monitoring National Safety Council officials said that’s not enough to avoid tragedy like the one in Tennessee where at least five children were killed.

“You know I do think you have to follow the money,” Deborah Hersman, the National Safety Council President, said. “We’re talking about a couple thousand dollars for each new bus that’s purchased but also it’s about changing behavior and changing the culture. Everyone grew up with seat belts and the standards on school buses date to the 1970’s. Times have changed and we need to update the standards for buses.”

However, drivers will continue to stay up-to-date on all they can.

“The position of the bus, how the tail swing of the bus, speeding, looking out,” Benson said. “Always looking at least 12 seconds out in front of you while you’re driving. Always be aware.”

The school district is actually short drivers and looking for more. You can apply by clicking here.

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