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Pew study uncovers incidents involving drunk school bus drivers

Across the United States every day, nearly a half-million school buses carry 25 million students to and from school and other activities, such as field trips and sporting events.

A recent in-depth study by the Pew Charitable Trust Stateline publication shows the safety of more than 1,620 kids in nearly 40 states has been jeopardized since 2015 by bus drivers who were impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Cases of drunk bus drivers found coast to coast

The months-long Stateline investigation focused on police reports, court records and media accounts of accidents involving school buses over the past five years. The results are alarming:

  • At least 118 bus drivers from Massachusetts to California were arrested or cited for DUI
  • More than a third of all cases involved a crash
  • Three dozen children were injured, some serious enough to require treatment in a hospital emergency room
  • Most of the 118 cases involved alcohol, but a third of the drivers were allegedly using drugs
  • Random drug and alcohol testing identified many other impaired drivers
  • No state or federal agency appears to track cases involving impaired bus drivers

Safety advocates push for better reporting systems

Getting an accurate view of the actual number of crashes involving drunk bus drivers is hampered by the lack of any standard reporting system for crashes involving school buses. Stateline contacted nearly 270 agencies in 50 states, and only 11% could share data.

The report says local school districts are aware of individual cases, but most say the data is not collected, tabulated or studied at the state level. The National Governors Highway Safety Association says having complete information is the only way to fix the problem.

Schools and bus companies must do a better job monitoring drivers

Private bus transportation companies and school officials say school buses are still the safest way to transport kids, and most drivers would never put a child at risk. They add that none of these incidents resulted in a fatality, and most of the kids were uninjured.

However, safety advocates say schools and bus companies need to do a better job of screening and monitoring drivers, and make sure they have the proper training to handle a vehicle weighing up to 33,000 pounds which can carry more than 70 students.

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