The Pew Charitable Trusts

01/22/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/22/2020 08:06

Risky Ride: How Impaired School Bus Drivers Endanger Children

A Stateline special report: Schoolchildren in dozens of states have been put in danger by bus drivers allegedly impaired by drugs or alcohol. Still, most states don't track these cases or know how many school bus drivers have failed random drug or alcohol tests.

Nationwide, more than 1,620 schoolchildren in 38 states have been placed in harm's way since 2015 by school bus drivers arrested or cited for allegedly driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Despite the dangers, the situation goes largely untracked by government officials, a Stateline analysis has found.

Police have caught at least 118 drivers operating a school bus while allegedly impaired, and more than a third of the cases involved crashes. Nearly three dozen students have been injured, some seriously. About a third of the cases involved drugs. And many additional impaired school bus drivers have been identified through random drug and alcohol screenings.

Part Two: 'Every State Should Be Passing A Law to Deal With This'

Parents in Georgia are still outraged that an impaired bus driver carrying their children hadn't been stopped before she started her route that morning, despite showing up to work with alcohol in her system. Police pulled over the bus after a parent received a panicked text from a child. 'My son could have been dead,' one parent told Stateline. 'What if she went around the S-curve and the bus had flipped?'

Government officials and transportation safety advocates have considered a variety of strategies to tackle the issue of impaired school bus drivers. Among them: mandating visual check-ins to make sure school bus drivers don't show signs of impairment, putting ignition locks on school buses, beefing up random testing and analyzing data about impaired school bus drivers.