No explanation for increase in school bus crashes

A school bus and SUV collided at Highway 55 and Old Smithfield Road in Apex Monday, March 7, 2011. (Jim Schumacher)

March 10, 2011 5:16:28 PM PST
The ABC11 I-Team is examining a disturbing rash of crashes involving Wake County school buses.

In the first two months of this year, there were as many crashes as there were days of school.

There were three wrecks involving Wake buses this week and that's not including a collision invovling a SUV. The SUV was contracted to Wake Schools, acting as a school bus. That wreck sent three children to the hospital.

Since the first of the year, at least ten children were sent to the hospital after wrecks like the one Monday in Holly Springs. The other driver was found to be at fault and Wake Schools spokesperson Greg Thomas says that's often the case.

"With more than 700,000 vehicles in Wake County, it stands to reason that there will be accidents from time to time," Thomas said. "Although in January and February, there is an increase of accidents."

As it turns out, there was a big increase. Thomas says Wake County school buses usually average about 12 wrecks each month, but in January and February, it was double that. A total of 45 -- 18 caused by other drivers and 27 caused by Wake bus drivers.

"A lot would involve backing into another vehicle, rolling into another bus in the carpool line, maybe going around and hitting another vehicle," Thomas explained.

Why the increase?

"To be honest with you, it's a bit of a head scratcher," Thomas said. "There doesn't seem to be anything that leads to any clear indication that there's anything different, or unusual, or out of the ordinary contributing to these [wrecks]."

But if they don't know what's causing the increase, how do they fix it?

"We've worked with the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide post accident training to our drivers following accidents where they've been at fault," Thomas said.

But that program only applies to crashes that have already happened. As for additional training that might stop collisions before they happen, like defensive driving training for all bus drivers. Thomas says there are no plans to make that happen, despite the doubling of crashes so far this year.

Currently, all bus drivers get two days of ongoing training every summer. In addition, a new DMV pilot program will begin soon.

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