School bus safety: A look back before going forward

(1st in a series)

It’s one of the saddest types of accidents I can think of: When a child is hurt or killed getting on or off of the school bus.

I’d like to spend my next few blog posts on school bus safety. I’ve posted several times on this subject over the past year or so, but it seems that we’ve had especially tragic circumstances strike us in this geographic area when it comes to bus accidents.

I’ve supplied links today to prior posts I’ve made on my blog on the issue, for those who want more information about the recent history of this tragic problem.

One that was especially heart wrenching was the case of the 11-year-old child Hasani N. Wesley, who was killed just before Christmas in 2012 (Headline below: After a deadly season, a prayer for the new school year).

Image / Egerton Law

Fleets of buses numbering in the thousands are traveling North Carolina roads every school day. Motorists, students and parents need to keep bus safety in the front of their minds.

 

After the case ended in a mistrial in April 2014, the driver who hit the child reached a plea agreement in June. Billy Roger Bailey, a 48-year-old pastor, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. He had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony, and passing a stopped school bus.

Bailey was sentenced to 60 days in jail (30 suspended), three years of probation and 240 of community service.

The mistrial occurred because new evidence was discovered in documents subpoenaed by the defense while the jury was deliberating. As reported by Channel 2 WFMY TV, the evidence revealed that the bus driver:

  • had been cited by district for driving wrong way in traffic circle going 10 miles over speed limit
  • allegedly ran a stop sign on September 4th 2008, which a citizen reported because, she said, she was almost hit by the bus
  • crashed her bus in another incident into another bus at a low speed. No one injured
  • was terminated in 2008 and hired back 6 months later
  • violated school policy by stopping in opposite direction of designated stop for Hasani and had done it before

  Apparently, prosecutors felt these facts as well as others weakened their case against Bailey, and the defense and prosecution reached a deal. A Wake Forest School of Law professor commented on the case in an article in the Winston-Salem Journal.

At least one positive result came: the passage of the Hasani N. Wesley Students’ School Bus Safety Act. Among the penalties imposed by the act:

•Illegally passing a school bus can lead to a misdemeanor charge and a minimum fine of $500.

•Drivers convicted three times can lose their license permanently.

  • Drivers who kill a student can be charged with a Class H felony (which carries a sentence of four to 25 months), pay a minimum fine of $2,500 and lose their license for three years.

These are links to some posts I’ve written regarding school bus safety, beginning with the most recent:

 

 

State superintendent focused on school bus safety at news conference

 

School bus passing violations take 50-percent leap in Forsyth Co., N.C.

 

Number of vehicles illegally passing school buses is horrifying

 

Arrest made in bus-stop hit & run near child’s home; bus continued with usual route to school

 

Child struck by car in hit & run; bus continued route to school

 

After a deadly season, a prayer for the new school year

 

2012’s deadly season of school bus accidents

 

Next: How motorists can enhance their safety awareness as they encounter school buses.

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