Many parents worry about the safety of their children when they are passengers in the car. However, parents may not be thinking about the dangers presented by an impaired school bus driver. There have been a number of impaired bus driver incidents over the past few months, that raises the concern over the level of scrutiny on bus drivers who are ferrying students to and from schools.
Here in California, a Napa school bus driver was recently arrested for a DUI after a crash on Old Sonoma Highway while transporting 28 children home from school. When police arrived, they found the bus stranded in the middle of the highway, and the driver apparently showed signs of intoxication. Fortunately, none of the children were injured. In addition to DUI charges, the driver may face 28 counts of felony child endangerment.
In Colorado, a school bus driver taking children home from school rolled the school bus over on its side on a local county road, injuring five of the students. Two children were seriously injured, and taken to a local hospital. The bus driver is now being held without bond for suspicion of five counts of careless driving causing injury, two counts of vehicular assault and nine counts of child abuse. According to the responding officer “a personal interaction” with the bus driver “led them to believe she was under the influence.”
Another incident occurred in New York when a Buffalo State University shuttle bus driver was found passed out behind the wheel of his bus while on duty. Students riding the bus recognized that their driver was intoxicated and they alerted the campus police. When campus police located the bus, they found it at a campus stop with the engine running and the driver passed out behind the wheel. The bus driver was unable to perform any type of field sobriety tests, and an open bottle of vodka was found sitting next to the driver's seat.
When they measured the shuttle driver's blood alcohol content (BAC), it was determined to be 0.30 %, nearly 8 times the legal limit for a commercial driver. The driver pleaded guilty to one count of “felony aggravated DWI” and could be facing up to seven years in prison.
Commercial drivers of trucks and buses are already subject to higher standards based on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Some of the Federal standards for commercially licensed drivers (CDL) include: mandatory pre-employment screening by employers, random alcohol and drug testing, a lower DUI threshold of 0.04% BAC, longer license suspensions for DUI convictions and harsher penalties for breathalyzer test refusal.
The FMCSA has also tried to eliminate some of the risks of the current “patchwork” of state licensing processes for commercial drivers by creating a national repository for CDL drivers. The data includes positive alcohol and drug tests and cross-checking the database may be mandatory for employers during pre-employment verification.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx commented on the new database. “Safety is our highest priority, and we will continue to embrace new tools and opportunities that protect the travelers on our nation's roads.”
With these repeated incidents of impaired bus drivers, states, municipalities and other private employers are increasingly looking at additional requirements above the minimum federal standard. In California, CDL testing is even more stringent than the minimum federal requirements, and the state has instituted more specialized training and additional testing criteria for school bus drivers.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has helped thousands of drivers with commercial licenses (Class A and Class B) keep their full commercial driving privileges, in addition to defending regular drivers. Lynn has dedicated her legal career to representing all types of drivers facing DUI charges in the East Bay. With over 30 years of criminal defense experience, Lynn Gorelick understands what it means to fight for you. Contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who will stand up for your rights.