A collision between a school bus and a tractor-trailer in Westminster in late March resulted in no injuries but prompted some concerned reactions among Carroll County residents.
On March 27 a school bus driver attempted to merge onto Md. 140 but side-swiped a tractor-trailer that was in the lane, according to police. The driver of the school bus, an 87-year-old Westminster man, was cited for changing lanes when unsafe, police said. Both drivers were able to bring their vehicles to a controlled stop.
When an incident like this occurs, how does the Carroll school system respond? And what rules exist to help prevent school bus collisions?
Here are three things to know about being a school bus driver in Carroll County.
Are the buses safe?
Each year, there are an average of 80-100 incidents involving a school bus that are reviewed by Carroll County Public Schools, according to Mike Hardesty, director of the transportation services department for the school system.
But, Hardesty said, most of those incidents do not involve personal injury or appreciable property damage. Incidents as simple as a tree limb breaking a mirror or a bus bumping into a mailbox require review and are a part of the yearly total.
Hardesty said school buses travel 5.3 million miles every school year, and serious incidents are rare.
What happens after an incident or collision involving a school bus?
Like Hardesty said, any time there is an incident, it’s reviewed by a committee each quarter. If drivers are at fault, there is a progressive discipline system, Hardesty said, that could range from a written reprimand to an unpaid suspension to a decertification, meaning the driver can no longer drive buses for CCPS.
Additionally, if there is an incident that results in a fatality, an ambulance being called, the driver receiving any sort of a traffic citation or any vehicle being towed, the driver is required to do a post-incident drug screening. Failing a drug test is grounds for immediate decertification, Hardesty said.
What does it take to be a school bus driver in Carroll County?
All school bus drivers in Carroll must obtain a commercial drivers license and additional endorsements for driving passengers and being a school bus driver.
CCPS requires all school bus drivers to pass pre-employment physicals and drug screenings, along with an annual physical. There are 17 hours of pre-service instruction and nine hours of behind-the-wheel instruction to prepare for obtaining a school bus license.
Additionally, Hardesty said, there is a minimum of six hours of in-service bus training each year for every driver.
Drivers cannot have more than two points on their Maryland license; they can have no license suspensions within the past 10 years; they can have no more than four points assessed on their license in the past 10 years; they can have no alcohol-related assessments in the past 10 years; and they can have no failures to appear in court in the past five years.
Drivers must also be at least 21 years old. There are no other age limits, as that would constitute discrimination, Hardesty said.