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Lawyer Blog: Baltimore, MD

Who’s Driving the Bus?

Maryland Drivers Are Ignoring School Bus Safety

On November 1, 2016, Southwest Baltimore was the site of a deadly school bus crash. After that crash, federal investigators decided that an audit of how the city screens school bus drivers was needed.

The call for an audit occurred in April, 2017. But as of July, 2017, that audit has not even started, according to state and city education professionals. However, bids from auditors will be requested, said the state’s Department of Education spokesman, William Reinhard, now that the school district has said they will pay for the audit.

Investigators have described the need for the audit as “urgent.” It was one of several safety recommendations that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) requested after the crash.

What Happened in the Crash?

Glenn Chappell, the 67-year-old school bus driver, first rear-ended a Ford Mustang. After that, he veered into oncoming traffic, striking a Maryland Transit Administration bus. In that Nov. 1, 2016, crash, Chappell and five people on the MTA bus were killed. Fortunately, no students were riding the school bus at the time.

Chappell had been in five previous school bus crashes between 2011 and 2015. During at least two of them, he had passed out. Chappell was discovered to have a history of diabetes, hypertension, and seizures that made him black out, according to the federal investigation.

The federal report also found that Chappell had been in at least 12 traffic incidents or crashes while he was operating either a bus or a personal vehicle. But, because the school system did not keep complete records nor maintain files on Chappell’s criminal history, determining whether he should have been barred from driving a school bus was not possible. According to the report, “During its investigation, the NTSB documented numerous instances in which BCPS (Baltimore City Public Schools) did not review or maintain records as required to comply with state or federal regulations.”

Now, it has been over three months since the NTSB called for an audit of the BCPS school bus driver system, and they’ve barely begun to solicit bids.

Who’s Minding the Driver?

School bus driver oversight is a nationwide problem. Every year, approximately 22,000 school bus crashes occur, resulting in injuries to thousands of students.

Problems go deeper than crashes, however. An investigation done by CBS News discovered that our country has a problem everywhere with school bus driver oversight. We’re talking situations like driving under the influence, child pornography, and even sexual assault of a child. In cases like these, where victims and their families seek justice, consulting a Maryland clergy sexual abuse lawyer can be a crucial step. Once a week, on average, a school bus driver is arrested for one of these types of crimes.

It’s true that school bus drivers are required to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL). But not many school bus drivers cross state lines, so a lot of the federal safety rules simply don’t apply to them. What this means is that a driver who could not drive for Greyhound bus lines could legally drive your child in a school bus.

We at the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler believe it’s unacceptable that a driver with so many health problems—and with a horrendous driving record—should be allowed to carry our children to and from school. We also believe it’s unacceptable that the federally recommended school bus driver audit has been delayed for so long.

We’re Listening. How Can We Help You?

The safety of children should be the priority of those in and outside the home, including teachers, bus drivers, and school officials. However, if a person such as a school bus driver chooses to act in a negligent manner, a young child may be the one to pay the price. Maryland child injury lawyer Steven H. Heisler understands how devastating any accident can be for a child to experience and wants to help Maryland families obtain the compensation their child needs to recover. Interested in more information on whether you have a valid personal injury claim? Contact Baltimore attorney Steven H. Heisler today for a free case consultation at 1-410-625-4878, or use our online contact form.