A School Bus Tragedy Occurs
Just before 3:30 p.m. on Monday, a school bus slammed into a tree and split apart, killing at least five children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, officials said. The bus was carrying 35 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade from an elementary school when it turned over on its side and struck the tree. Twenty-three victims were transported to an area hospital. Twelve children remain hospitalized, six in intensive care.
Officials said the 24-year-old bus driver was driving well over the posted 30 mph limit along a narrow, winding road when the crash occurred. He has been arrested and charged with multiple counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving, according to Chattanooga Police. He had a reputation for speeding and had been in an accident two months prior, according to local residents and officials.
A Catalyst For Change?
As the investigation gets underway into the driver’s actions and the conditions of the bus, on a much larger scale the NTSB will look at whether seat belts — something the NTSB has been pushing for — would have made a difference. Currently, only six states, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas require seat belts on school buses. Many others, including Tennessee, have considered but dropped such legislation in recent years out of concerns including cost.
We are seeing too many tragic school bus accidents in recent years. Safety must go beyond seat belts. It is time to also focus on safe driving and ensuring that all school bus drivers are properly screened and trained.