With bright yellow paint, flashing amber lights and small red stop signs, school buses are hard to miss in a sea of after-school traffic.
Sometimes, however, area buses are involved in slight fender-benders.
“We do have accidents involving school buses on occasion,” Jewel Armour, executive director of operations for Hall County Schools, said in an email to The Times. “We run 217 bus routes both morning and afternoon each day. This is in addition to the extracurricular, field trips and sports events we cover. We travel approximately 2.4 million miles each year in school buses. With that many miles on the road, one can expect some accidents.”
Gainesville City Schools buses have been involved in 44 wrecks since 2006, said Jerry Castleberry, transportation director for the school system. “When there is an accident the driver first assesses the situation on the bus. Then he calls the dispatch and they call the public safety people,” Castleberry said. “We’ll also notify schools there’s been an accident.”
Only one accident, involving a school bus and a bicycle, sent a person to the hospital.
Even if a bus is involved in an accident, a replacement vehicle isn’t usually sent unless there is serious damage.
“If a bus is disabled, we’ll send a new bus,” Castleberry said.
“If a driver is charged in an accident it becomes his personal issue but the liability would still rest with the school system.”
Castleberry said whether a driver returned to work or not after being charged with an accident depended on the case.
“We haven’t had one where they’ve been disqualified,” he said.
With most accidents involving Hall County school buses, the drivers are not at fault and no students are injured, Armour said.
Hall County school bus drivers must go through a 12-step process if they’re involved in an accident.
The procedure includes notifying school officials and parents, and reporting to the hospital in the case of any student injuries.
Armour said injuries are rare because of the school buses’ design.
“Buses are built in such a way as to have the students somewhat higher off the road than most vehicles,” Armour said.
“Thus, they’re seated above most traffic which means that when there is an accident, most vehicle contact is underneath the students.”
He said if a school bus is in an accident that results in the vehicle rolling over, the roof design adds extra protection. The padded, nonflammable and nontoxic seats keep students safe as well.
“A school bus is not a tank, but it is the next thing to it,” he said.