Manatee County has experienced a leap in the incidence of school bus accidents this academic year, with 11 accidents in only two months. That’s nearly half of last year’s total for the entire academic year, and it’s only been two months since school began this fall.
Of the 11 accidents this year, 5—over 45 percent—have been attributed to driver error. Of the 23 last year, the same number of drivers, 5, were at fault, slightly under 22 percent.
Two of the Bus Accidents Happened Just Last Week
On Wednesday at 1:40 p.m., a driver made an improper left turn at the intersection of 26th Avenue East and 27th Street East and hit the left side of a moving vehicle. No students were on the bus at the time. Florida Highway Patrol said the driver of the other vehicle was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital with minor injuries. No students were on the bus at the time.
On Tuesday, a 64-year-old woman was seriously injured and was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital after she drove into the path of a bus on County Road 6 near U.S. 41 with five students on board. The woman had apparently been distracted by her dog and drifted out of her proper lane. None of the children on the bus were injured.
So What is the Cause of All the Recent Bus Accidents
Sheryl Riker, director of transportation for Manatee schools, thinks the problem may be that the school system has hired more new drivers this year with less experience to cover a driver shortage last year.
Florida state law requires drivers to have 40 hours of training before they are allowed on the roads, but the Manatee School Board requires more. Their drivers complete between 50 and 55 hours of training and are required to complete an additional eight hours of in-service training every year. This year they are adding monthly driver meetings.
Riker feels that route planning is essential to reduce the risk of bus accidents. The district is using routing software to draft maps of routes where maneuvering a large bus is easiest.
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