Wake superintendent taking bus crashes seriously

A school bus and SUV collided at Highway 55 and Old Smithfield Road in Apex Monday, March 7, 2011. (Jim Schumacher)
April 1, 2011 3:12:34 PM PDT
In March, there was more school bus crashed than there were days in the month. It follows a trend the ABC11 I-Team uncovered last month and Superintendent Tony Tata appears to be taking it very seriously.

"The safety and security of our students is absolutely the number one priority for me," Tata said.

The Superintendent addressed the topic Friday morning during a virtual town hall meeting. Just this afternoon, a contracted school bus collided with a city dump truck, but no children were hurt.

Another bus was called to take the students home.

Crashes involving contracted buses do not count in the official numbers.

Yellow Wake County buses average about 12 crashes a month, but in March alone, there were 34 and bus drivers were at fault at about half the time.

In the first three month of this year, there have been a total of 79 crashes, which averages out to 27 per month. That's far more than the normal 12.

"Because of what I have seen and the accident rate that is evident, I'm asking the Transportation Department to conduct a stand down for safety -- face-to-face meetings with our drivers to put them on notice that we have to change things," Tata said.

Among the changes include every school bus driver in the country participating in mandatory monthly safety training. Also, the school system is beefing up the review board that investigates crashes and developing a matrix of consequences for different types of crashes.

"We need to eliminate accidents of all kinds and make sure we're hiring the best people we can to drive our busses," Tata said.

In defense of the school system and bus drivers, Tata said the county's standards exceed DMV requirements. He also pointed out that Wake hires only 40 percent of driver applicants, but he couldn't explain the uptick in crashes and said, "They can and will do better."

"Bus safety is a crucial part of how we do business, and there's nothing more important than the safety and security of our students," he added.

There's one other new approach to making sure good bus drivers are behind the wheel. A new feature on the school district's website allows anyone to report bad bus driving when it happens. Click here for information on the School Bus Safety Project.

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