JCPS school bus accident raises many questions

Louisville, KY – On Friday morning September 28, 2012, JCPS school bus No. 1250 was traveling on its way from Portland to Frost Middle School when a Ford Mustang carrying 3 high school students on their way to Butler Traditional High School plowed through a stop sign and into its side knocking the bus on its side and injuring up to 51 people.

The car was reportedly driven by a student at Butler Traditional High School and he had two other students with him. All indications are that the bus driver was not at fault.

Is this the “accident waiting to happen” that will force us into a real discussion of the JCPS busing arguments?

There are many questions to be raised for sure.

The intersection at Lower River Road and Moorman Road has long been considered somewhat dangerous for residents in the area. I have witnessed, and so have many others, drivers carelessly ignoring the stop sign on Moorman Rd and traveling straight through it creating a potential disaster like we witnessed on Friday morning.

I also don’t buy the story that the driver of the Mustang “slid” through the intersection due to wet roads and created an accident of this magnitude. I have no doubt the driver hit the brakes but though I am no expert based on the damage to the vehicles in question he was not already in a “slow down mode” for the stop sign when he approached the intersection itself.

Having traveled that road countless times myself in all kinds of weather situations it defies logic. Speed was a factor in my opinion.

Yet one has to look at a bigger picture here now and start asking questions about JCPS school bus safety to some degree.

This wreck raises many questions.

How anyone survived in the mustang is incredible but just how safe are our children’s school buses?

Though this one particular accident does not appear to be bus driver error, how many accidents are involving school buses these days?

According to a 2011 WLKY report, JCPS Transportation Director Rick Caple says JCPS averages over 400 bus accidents a year most he blames on other drivers not JCPS bus drivers. This number has increased since JCPS took over the buses from private contractors after merger.

Caple also goes on to state that 70% of accidents are not the fault of JCPS bus drivers leaving at least 30% that are. He also states that JCPS is running more miles and has more buses running.

Therein is the opening to discuss the “student assignment plan” or busing if you will.

Using the numbers provided by Mr. Caple JCPS drivers are responsible for over 100 accidents each year themselves. This opens the door to a lot of liability that was somewhat shielded prior to JCPS eliminating private bus contractors.

The private bus carriers paid for their own buses, held insurance and liability coverage and were responsible for their own costs including fuel. How much did this save JCPS?

Additionally the drivers had “skin in the game” since it was their personal livelihood at risk when transporting our kids. Knowing many of these former drivers I can assure you they took their jobs seriously and provided the safest care for our kids.

But I digress.

More miles and more buses being driven today greatly increases the risk of accidents and jeopardizes the safety of the kids.

Every year we have seen bus accidents that send our kids to area hospitals and the wait by parents who don’t know the status of their children is torture.

And what of the safety of the actual bus itself?

No seat belts on buses yet we require every car driver to wear one.

Are buses more prone to “tip over” due to being top-heavy? I remember when SUV’s first came to the market and the furor over Ford Explorers being top-heavy and the cause of rollover accidents.

The NHTSA addressed the problem and agreed. Ford has paid more than $1 billion in lawsuits from rollovers.

Yet no one has made a rational effort to hold school buses to the same standard. Why not?

Are our kids not worth it?

And what of the 3 high school students in the Mustang that caused the accident?

Coming from Moorman Rd one can safely assume that they lived in the neighborhood.

Valley High School and PRP are much closer to their address than Butler High School. Could the accident have been avoided if they were going to a closer school and didn’t feel the need to presumably be speeding to a school miles away so they were not late for class?

Should we be allowing our young limited experienced drivers be put in this situation?

Though the majority of our school bus drivers are what I would consider safe drivers I have witnessed many instances of unsafe behavior from some of them. Some that would startle you.

I also have been very fortunate. I chose long ago to live close to my kid’s school so they could be walkers and not riders of JCPS school buses. I also never had to endure the  “student assignment” plan that would put them in harm’s way.

They graduated long ago and I no longer have the same fear that so many parents face.

With an ever-increasing bus presence on the roads today it is inevitable that this accident would happen. It happens all the time. Last year we had bus accidents that sent riders to hospitals.

And it will continue.

With more miles on the road, more buses, and increasing limited experienced young drivers all on the road at the same time heading in a hurry to get to school on time, you can’t deny the laws of probability.

There will be more accidents to come and ultimately someone will die. Is that what it will take to lessen the probabilities?

Though JCPS was not at fault in this case there will be endless lawsuits against them to be sure. though the Mustang driver is the cause of the accident his pockets, and that of his insurer, are not going to be deep enough to pay the claims of all leaving many with no choice but to sue JCPS.

One of the biggest claims will be the safety of the bus itself in regards to rollover probabilities.

The plaintiffs will either win a huge settlement from JCPS or the manufacturer of the school bus.

At the very least it will cost megabucks defending the suits.

One can’t help but wonder if it all could have been avoided by lessening the risks.

Neighborhood schools will lessen the amount of time buses are on the roads, save money on fuel, and maybe even save a life.

Seems kind of worth it to me……..