GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Following Monday’s fatal school bus crash in Chattanooga, TN, 8News set out to find out how your kids are being kept safe on the road and what the process is for vetting school bus drivers.
“I think it all starts really when we hire our drivers. They’re going to be the key to keeping our students safe.”, says Goochland County Public Schools Executive Director of Business, Andy Armstrong on how important it is to thoroughly vet and train school bus drivers after five children were killed. The school bus driver in that accident is now facing charges, including five counts of vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving.
Armstrong explains, “For bus drivers, the state code requires that you pass a yearly fit for duty physical, in addition to a mandatory drug screening. In addition to 24 hours of classroom instruction and 24 hours of on the road instruction for new drivers as well.”
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, Virginia saw 582 school bus crashes last year.
As of January 2016, the Richmond area has seen 101 school bus accidents including 19 Richmond City, 12 in Hanover, 27 in Chesterfield, and 43 in Henrico.
The crashes resulted in 29 injuries, but luckily, no fatalities.
Given the severity of Monday’s crash, many are asking why seat belts aren’t a requirement for school buses?
Armstrong says, “We do have restraints, we call them star seats for our smaller students for our preschool kids. Some buses are equipped with seat belts in the front seats, but statistically, despite this tragedy, people have to realize that kids, when they’re on a moving bus are actually safer.”
Meanwhile, some are calling for safety standards to be updated on school buses across the board.
National Safety Council President, Deborah Hersman says, “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.”
Armstrong says getting your kids to school safely is their top priority.