Published: Sunday, January 28, 2018 @ 11:00 AM
By: Michael D. Clark - Staff Writer
BUTLER COUNTY — Recent school bus crashes have Butler County school officials redoubling their efforts to assure the thousands of students they transport each school day travel safely.
The crashes this month in Middletown and Edgewood school districts were caused by vehicles colliding into buses containing school children.
There were no serious injuries, but local school officials cite the accidents as reminders of possible worst-case scenarios they want to avoid.
Crashes draw much attention, but the daily schoolday ritual of safely transporting school children and teens along thousands of miles of Butler County roads is the overwhelming norm, said local school transportation officials.
“Riding a yellow school bus is still the safest way for students to get to and from school,” said Chris Passarge, chief operations officer for Lakota Schools.
“Lakota continues to keep safety at the forefront of everything we do, including transportation. All of our buses have GPS and camera systems that can be used for a variety of reasons to include safety.”
In Ohio, between 2012 and 2016, there were 6,606 crashes involving school buses, leading to 16 deaths and 2,317 injuries, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Nationwide, more than 20 million K-12 students ride buses each school day, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
School bus accidents are more frequent in the winter season, when roads can be hazardous due to snow and ice.
Technological advancements in school bus design, digital enhancements, new procedures and enhanced training of drivers has helped enssure safe travels, said Hamilton School officials.
“All of our buses are equipped with well-trained drivers, GPS tracking systems and cameras to help ensure a safe ride for all of our students,” said Larry Knapp, business manager for the 10,000-student Hamilton school system.
“We do have accidents from time to time, but thankfully, the majority of these are at slower speeds with few or no injuries. Similar to newer autos on the road, today’s bus interiors are better designed to help minimize injuries in these types of situations.”
Pam Pratt, spokeswoman for Edgewood Schools, said the rural Butler County district – almost entirely comprised of two-lane roads – has 25 buses transporting about 2,000 students.
“We perform daily inspections on our buses along with partnering with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for periodic inspections,” Pratt said. “Other activities include bus evacuation practice drills and conducting district safety meetings with our area first responders.”
What hasn’t been modernized, unfortunately, is the sometimes-careless behavior of the bad drivers around school buses, said Knapp.
“One of the biggest challenges we face are other drivers passing our buses when the bus is stopped on a street loading or unloading students,” he said.
“When our bus lights are flashing, people are supposed to stop. I don’t know if they are just in a hurry or don’t know the law, but going around the bus certainly puts kids at risk. The more space any driver can put between themselves and a school bus will help keep everyone safer.”