No in­juries as school bus col­lides with car

Fourth crash in last 9 school days in­volv­ing Car­roll Co. ve­hi­cles

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Mary Grace Keller

A ve­hi­cle tried to pass a Car­roll County Pub­lic Schools bus and was struck as the bus made a rou­tine three-point turn in Mar­riottsvill­e Mon­day morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to school of­fi­cials.

A ve­hi­cle at­tempt­ing to pass a school bus was struck Mon­day morn­ing as the bus made a three-point turn on a dead-end road in Mar­riottsvill­e, ac­cord­ing to school of­fi­cials.

No one was in­jured in the col­li­sion in the 7600 block of Ridge Road, ac­cord­ing to the Car­roll County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. The sher­iff’s of­fice re­ceived the call for the ac­ci­dent at 7:01 a.m., said spokesman Jonathan Light.

Bus 132 backed into a Toy­ota sedan that was try­ing to drive around it, strik­ing the rear pas­sen­ger side of the car, ac­cord­ing to Car­roll County Pub­lic Schools’ trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials.

“The car was mov­ing to try and squeeze around the bus,” said John O’Meally, area su­per­vi­sor for the school sys­tem’s trans­porta­tion ser­vices.

The ve­hi­cle, which was leak­ing fluid af­ter the crash, was towed, while the bus was “barely scratched,” O’Meally said.

Two stu­dents were aboard the bus head­ing for Lib­erty High School, said Brenda Bowers, a spokes­woman for Car­roll County Pub­lic Schools. The bus con­tin­ued its route af­ter the in­ci­dent, she said.

Mike Hardesty, the school sys­tem’s trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor, said the bus was at a stop, making a rou­tine three-point turn nec­es­sary to exit the dead-end road.

“Ev­ery morn­ing it does the same thing,” Hardesty said.

The bus driver was tested for con­trolled sub­stances, which is stan­dard prac­tice, Hardesty added.

No ci­ta­tions are ex­pected to be is­sued, Light said.

Over the past nine school days there have been at least four col­li­sions in­volv­ing Car­roll County school buses, adding to a tally of what is now 34 ac­ci­dents so far this school year, O’Meally said.

One bus rear-ended an­other Wed­nes­day in Wood­bine af­ter an un­ex­pected snow squall swept through the county. Three stu­dents suf­fered mi­nor in­juries and one 16-year-old boy was taken to Car­roll Hos­pi­tal by am­bu­lance with a head in­jury.

Two crashes oc­curred Dec. 20. In the morn­ing, a bus trans­port­ing spe­cial-needs stu­dents hit a guardrail in Finks­burg and no in­juries were re­ported. Later that day, two adults and one child were taken to the hos­pi­tal af­ter a U-Haul truck and school bus col­lided in Hamp­stead.

Less than half­way through the school year, the num­ber of bus ac­ci­dents in the county is trend­ing slightly higher than the year be­fore. An “ac­ci­dent” is de­fined as any­thing strik­ing the bus or when the bus strikes some­thing, Hardesty said. This in­cludes mov­ing ve­hi­cles and sta­tion­ary ob­jects such as a guardrail.

Car­roll County school buses were in 63 ac­ci­dents in the year ended in June 2019, 72 in 2018, and 85 in 2017, Hardesty said. Of the ac­ci­dents in 2019, 39 were de­ter­mined to be pre­ventable — a de­crease from 50 in 2018 and 58 in 2017, Hardesty said.

Five of this year’s ac­ci­dents are con­sid­ered ma­jor by the school district, which means there was prop­erty dam­age higher than $3,000 or per­sonal in­jury, O’Meally and Hardesty said. There were eight ma­jor ac­ci­dents that could have been pre­vented in 2019, Hardesty said.

Charles County Pub­lic Schools, which has a com­pa­ra­ble num­ber of stu­dents, has logged 26 bus ac­ci­dents this school year and 63 dur­ing the 2018 to 2019 school year, said Shelley Mackey, a Charles County schools spokes­woman.

In Car­roll County Pub­lic Schools, the ac­ci­dent re­view com­mit­tee de­ter­mines whether an ac­ci­dent was pre­ventable. Its mem­bers in­clude a Sher­iff’s Of­fice deputy, a driver’s in­struc­tor, a bus con­trac­tor or driver, the risk man­ager from hu­man re­sources, and O’Meally, who serves as chair, ac­cord­ing to Hardesty. The driver in­volved in an ac­ci­dent also is brought in for the re­view process, Hardesty said.

The com­mit­tee is aided in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion by new front-fac­ing cam­eras that show the driver’s per­spec­tive, Hardesty said. Th­ese cam­eras were installed on all of the county school buses by the end of Oc­to­ber, he said.

Hardesty could not point to a rea­son be­hind the re­cent spike in bus crashes over the last nine school days.

“That’s the way some­times th­ese go,” he said.

While the goal is al­ways to have zero bus ac­ci­dents, Hardesty hopes the to­tal num­ber of crashes this year con­tin­ues to fol­low the down­ward trend of the pre­vi­ous three years.

“We do have a very good train­ing pro­gram,” Hardesty said.

And if a driver is in­volved in a pre­ventable crash, they un­dergo ad­di­tional train­ing.

DY­LAN SLAGLE/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA

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