School bus crashes can cause parents a great deal of worry because they believe their children are safe while being transported to and from school. In California, eight special education students were injured in the Lancaster school bus accident that occurred on February 7, 2017. Injuries to the eight students ranged from mild to moderate. Also injured in the bus crash was the driver of another vehicle. He suffered critical injuries.
California School Bus Crash Injures Special Education Students
According to reports, the school bus was carrying eight special education students and two teacher’s aides in addition to the bus driver to school at around 7:15 a.m. on February 7. The crash occurred near 20th Street East and East Lancaster Boulevard as the bus headed to Eastside High School. The bus was traveling eastbound on Lancaster Boulevard and a Cadillac was headed north on 20th Street East when the bus t-boned the car.
The bus driver reportedly told officials that the Cadillac involved in the accident ran a red light, causing the Lancaster school bus accident, but the California Highway Patrol is still investigating. The force of the crash caused the bus to slide out of control and hit a utility pole. Fortunately, the students on the bus were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash. The students who had less serious injuries were transported for evaluation, while the critically injured driver—fifty-five-year-old Robert McLafferty of Arizona—was taken to hospital.
So far, officials do not believe either drugs or alcohol were factors in the collision, but at least one official said seatbelts on the bus may have saved lives.
School District Releases Statement on Lancaster School Bus Accident
Following the Lancaster school bus accident, the Antelope Valley Union High School District released a statement from Superintendent Dr. David J. Vierra.
“We are saddened by this terrible accident and are providing counseling services to those who need support during this very difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with our students, staff, and their families.”
Visalia Students Injured in School Bus Crash
The Lancaster school bus accident is not the only school bus crash in California to send students to hospitals in recent weeks. A school bus crash in Visalia on February 14, 2017, also resulted in students and an adult being transported to the hospital.
That school bus was carrying 27 students and three adults to a sporting event at 3:30 p.m. when a Dodge Charger collided with a Ford pick-up truck heading east on Caldwell Avenue, sending the truck into oncoming traffic and directly in the path of the Visalia Unified School District bus. The bus skidded into a field while the truck caught fire. In all, four students and one adult were taken to hospital, but none were reported to have major injuries.
Parents were reportedly frantic at the scene of the crash, and California Highway Patrol had to keep parents at bay while students were accounted with. Those students not injured in the accident were sent via bus back to Veva Blunt, where parents were able to pick them up.
“The CHP is in charge,” said Veva Blunt Principal Mindy Gosvener.” They want to make sure the right kids are with the right parents.”
Caldwell Avenue was closed for almost two hours following the bus crash. The California Highway Patrol is investigating the accident.
One Driver Killed in Collision with School Bus
One man died on January 27 after a van and a school bus collided when the driver of the van swerved into oncoming traffic. Luckily, there were no students on the bus at the time of the crash. The driver of the bus, Kevin Neal, was taken to hospital for his injuries. The driver of the van died at the scene.
“That’s always a call you don’t want to have, you don’t have anything involving kids or school buses,” said Dean Emehiser, California Highway Patrol Los Banos. “Fortunately, in this case, the school bus was empty.”
The bus company spoke with ABC 30 and said the bus driver had not received any tickets in three years with the company. The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the collision.
States Consider School Bus Seat Belt Laws
Following recent school bus accidents—including deadly crashes—some states are now considering laws that would require school buses to have seatbelts. In January 2017, the Senate Transportation Committee in Washington State held a public hearing to consider Senate Bill 5054, which would mandate all private and public school buses, that are purchased after the bill passes, provide seat belts for every rider.
“We shouldn’t be having tragedies where kids are killed because they don’t have the option of putting on a seat belt,” Republican Senator Michael Baumgartner said at the hearing.
Not everyone supports the bill, however. Brian Lang, who is a former school bus driver, said it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure all students on the bus are buckled up, a task that would be too hard for one bus driver to be in charge of while also driving.
“It’s going to be difficult for one driver to control,” Lang said.
Other states currently considering seat belt legislation for school buses include Michigan, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Virginia.
In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revised its stance on school bus seat belts. Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a speech that the agency would recommend three-point seat belts on school buses, noting that seat belts save lives, whether in a passenger car or a school bus. For the time being, school bus safety seems to be at the top of many people’s minds.