Safe passage

Published 4:33 am Monday, January 29, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
Escambia County has never experienced the tragedy seen in Huntsville last November when four students were killed in a school bus accident.
Through the efforts of well-trained individuals, school officials hope the area never will.
The drivers of a school bus and a car involved in a deadly wreck on an interstate overpass in Huntsville have been named defendants in the first wrongful death lawsuit filed in the accident, which killed four teens.
The suit, filed Monday in Madison County Circuit Court on behalf of the father of one of the victims, contends in part that the bus driver wasn't wearing his seat belt and failed to stay in his seat to control the steering wheel when the bus veered into a railing and plunged over it.
Jere Beasley is one lawyer who is representing the family of one of the victims in the case and stated the safety of children is the prioirity in the case.
Little, who oversees transportation for the Escambia County school system, said the seat belt law has been in effect for many years.
Not only do bus drivers wear seat belts as a requirement, they undergo rigorous and continuous training to keep up-to-date on the latest safety procedures while on their job.
Not only do bus drivers undergo rigorous training, a recertification process must be completed each year for the driver to retain their license to operate a school bus Little said.
In regard to specific safety features on school buses, contradicting evidence has been presented concerning seat belt use for students.
Hines said the reason Florida officials removed the student seat belts is because it was found to be a hazard and not very cost effective.
One argument against student seat belt use is that younger children may be unable to release the belt in the case of an emergency when evacuation from the bus would be necessary.
Hines said the seating arrangement on the bus is planned in such a manner as to allow the driver to assist the younger children as quickly as possible in the event of an accident.
Although the seat belt issue is one aspect of school bus safety, the chassis and seat construction serve as protective restraints on their own merits.
Although accidents do occur, school bus transportation is considered the safest way to get to and from schools.

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