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      News — bus driver

      THP: Meigs Co. school bus driver & 7-year-old girl killed in crash, 7 others hospitalized

      THP: Meigs Co. school bus driver & 7-year-old girl killed in crash, 7 others hospitalized

      UPDATE (Tuesday evening, 11 p.m.)

      Newschannel9's shared the latest from the tragic bus crash.

      Newschannel9's 11 PM coverage on the deadly Meigs County Bus Crash{p}{/p}

      THP later tweet that Highway 58 is back open more than 7 hours after the crash.


      UPDATE (Tuesday evening, 8:30 p.m.):

      The Tennessee Highway Patrol shared the tragic news that a Meigs County school bus driver and a young student were killed in Tuesday afternoon's crash.

      Seven other children were taken to Erlanger in Chattanooga, THP Lieutenant Bill Miller said during a news conference Tuesday night. Of those, five were airlifted by LifeForce helicopter, with at least one of them in critical condition. (Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that a total of five children were sent to the hospital. This has since been corrected.)

      The student killed was a 7-year-old girl, but officials have not yet released her name or that of the woman driving the bus.

      According to Lt. Miller, a service electric truck was heading north on Highway 58 when the driver lost control and overcorrected, reentering the highway and skidding into the oncoming bus lane.

      A total of 22 students were on Bus #12-1 when the crash happened. Lt. Miller said the driver of the utility vehicle received minor injuries.

      (Image: Tennessee Highway Patrol)

      Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton said during the conference that in his time in law enforcement, this was an incident that "really touched home."

      "Never in your wildest dreams do you think when you go out the door that you'll deal with something like this," said Meigs County School Superintendent Clint Baker, "It's a tragedy - no other way to describe it."

      Superintendent Baker says the state's Department of Mental Health and Meigs County crisis team will be available to help the district's hurting students, teachers, and school bus drivers on Wednesday.

      Lt. Miller says traffic fatalities are on the rise in a year where they shouldn't be.

      "It's ripped scars off of memories of what families have gone through in the past," said Miller.

      Tennessee Governor Bill Lee offered his condolences Tuesday night, and promised support for the Meigs County community in the coming days.

      "We are praying for all those involved and their families. May God watch over these innocent children," said U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn.

      The THP says a preliminary report of the crash will be released later Tuesday night.

      This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.

      UPDATE (Tuesday evening, 8 p.m.):

      The Tennessee Highway Patrol says they will hold a news conference at 8:30 p.m. ET to provide information on the deadly crash involving a utility vehicle and a Meigs County school bus with children on board.

      The conference is set to take place at Meigs South Elementary School. The area has limited cell reception. We are working with our crew in the field to get the latest information to you as we are able.

      THP says they will attempt to livestream the news conference on their Facebook and Twitter pages if signal permits.

      This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.


      Tennessee Highway Patrol says two people were killed in a crash involving a utility service vehicle and a Meigs County School bus with children on board.

      Lieutenant Bill Miller confirmed the news to us late Tuesday afternoon during our evening newscast. Officials have not yet released the ages or names of those involved.

      Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton told us around 4 p.m. that he was rushing to the scene. It happened at 7751 State Highway 58, north of the intersection with Lamontville Road.

      A person who was on the scene but asked not to be identified tells us the crash involved a utility truck and the school bus. It’s not clear how many injuries there are at this time, but our source confirms there are multiple injuries.

      According to a 5:44pm statement from the Meigs County Board of Education, Meigs County Bus #12-1 was on its afternoon route with children on board when the crash happened.

      "At present all families have been notified and children have returned home with a family member or were taken to area hospitals for treatment" the statement reads.

      The school system said students on the bus were sent to Meigs South Elementary School, and parents could go there to pick them up.

      It is not clear how many people were on the bus, or how many were taken to the hospital.

      NewsChannel 9's crews reported from Meigs County as well as outside Erlanger in Chattanooga as the news developed.PM TEAM COVERAGE pt1: Sydney Edwards and Sabrina Maggiore reported from Meigs County, and Isaiah Kim-Martinez reported from outside Erlanger in downtown Chattanooga.

      6PM TEAM COVERAGE pt2: Sydney Edwards and Sabrina Maggiore reported from Meigs County, and Isaiah Kim-Martinez reported from outside Erlanger in downtown Chattanooga.

      Blood Assurance says its area locations will be staying open until 10 p.m. tonight to get blood donations for those injured in the bus accident. Appointments are required - you can make one by calling 800-962-0628, text BAGIVE to 999777, or by visiting their website here.

      The locations include Hixson, downtown Chattanooga, Gunbarrel Road, and Cleveland.

      Many people have rushed to donate blood in the wake of the deadly crash.

      In downtown Chattanooga, Isaiah Kim-Martinez saw dozens in the waiting room.

      And at the Cleveland location, a viewer sent us pictures of lines of community members wrapping around the building.

      Local and state officials are responding to the news of the serious crash.

      Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn offered her condolences in a statement, and said that they are working to support the Meigs County School District and community.

      “I and the entire staff at the Tennessee Department of Education are deeply saddened to hear about the fatal bus crash in Meigs County earlier this afternoon. No words can express our sympathies for those lives that were lost," said Schwinn, "We send our deepest condolences to the students, families, school staff and leaders, district staff and the entire Meigs County community affected by this tragic accident and wish healing for all those injured. The department has communicated with district leaders and staff in Meigs County and surrounding areas and is mobilizing to support this community in safety response and services.”

      Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke released a statement on Twitter, saying, "I'm deeply saddened to hear the news coming out of Meigs County this evening about a serious school bus crash. My thoughts are with these children and their families. Until we have more information, we will hope for the best and keep them in our prayers."

      The Bradley County Sheriff's Office asked the community to join them in "prayerfully supporting those affected by this accident."

      This is a developing story and will be updated.


      Drivers will now lose licence if they illegally pass a school bus

      Drivers will now lose licence if they illegally pass a school bus

      Fines already highest in Canada, and will be higher with more demerit points

      P.E.I. drivers will now lose their licence for a time if they illegally pass a school bus, Transportation Minister Paula Biggar said in the legislature Thursday.

      Drivers who ignore this law are not allowed on Island roads.
      — Paula Biggar
      School bus drivers, parents and others have been calling for more action on illegal passing for years, ramping up efforts after some vehicles nearly hit children getting on and off buses this fall.

      Failing to stop for a school bus will also result in 12 demerit points and driver's licence suspension for three months, plus a $5,000 fine.

      The new measures will take effect Dec. 8, Biggar said.

      Will need to take a course
      "This means drivers who ignore this law are not allowed on Island roads," said Biggar.

      Previously, the punishment was typically a fine of $1,000 and eight demerit points, with maximum fine of $5,000.

      Those fines were already the highest in the country, according to a document tabled in the legislature by Biggar last November. The next highest were in Nova Scotia, ranging from $697.50 to $2,422.50. Second offences in Ontario could lead to a $4,000 fine and possible jail time.

      For a suspended licence on P.E.I. to be reinstated, drivers will need to meet with highway safety officials, pay a $100 reinstatement fee and take a defensive driving course within six months of getting their licence back.

      Drivers will then be on probation, Biggar said, and if they receive any demerit points within a year of reinstatement, their licence will be suspended.

      'Strong solutions'
      Biggar said the new measures are one of the recommendations of the standing committee on Infrastructure and Energy.

      "We are taking all these recommendations seriously. We will be continuing to work with our police and education partners to implement strong solutions."

      Island entrepreneurs pitch product to stop drivers passing stopped school buses
      She added that government is looking at additional prevention and enforcement measures, including raising the demerit points for using a hand-held device while driving.

      "We all have a role in ensuring our Island roads are safe and keeping children safe on their way to school and we will continue to work diligently to prevent the dangerous passing of school buses on P.E.I."


      Keeping the Loading, Unloading Process Safe in 13 Steps

      Keeping the Loading, Unloading Process Safe in 13 Steps

      Given the rash of incidents that occurred over the course of three days in late 2018, in which five students were killed by motorists who ran a school bus’s stop arm or struck a student at their bus stop, the loading and unloading process is one of many factors involved in student transportation that has received a second look lately.


      The California Department of Education has established a procedure that includes the driver escorting students across the street. The state hasn’t had a documented death since the crossing requirement was established in the 1950s, Anna Borges, California’s state director of pupil transportation, confirmed to School Bus Fleet. This is the only state with such a requirement.

      SBF spoke with Sabine Konrad, a driver instructor for Visalia (Calif.) Unified School District, about crucial steps in the loading and unloading process, which she covered recently in a presentation at the California Association for School Transportation Officials conference in April.

      “Passenger loading and unloading is the nucleus of what school bus drivers do,” Konrad says. “Our precious cargo is exposed to the highest risk of getting injured — or worse — during this procedure. We cannot allow that to happen.”

      Here are some of the most critical steps a driver should take in this process and when, such as turning on the amber and red lights, exiting the bus to help students cross, checking mirrors, and counting students as they load and unload.

      1. Stay Focused.
      Most importantly, Konrad emphasizes that bus drivers cannot be even slightly distracted during any point in the loading and unloading process, which can be the most dangerous step in transporting students, if not carried out safely. That includes dealing with behavior or other issues. If necessary, pull the bus over to deal with problems before or after the next stop instead of while loading or unloading.

      “Letting your guard down for even one split second can and will have a devastating outcome,” Konrad says.

      2. Enforce Safe Student Behavior.
      Drivers should watch students and ensure they are not pushing each other or playing around while getting on or off the bus, and are using the handrail to avoid falling. When unloading, students should look to the front and rear of the bus before stepping onto the sidewalk, and then immediately move 12 feet away from the bus.

      3. Be Consistent.
      Each step has an important purpose, and it is critical that the procedure is executed the same way every time so as not to confuse students or the motoring public, Konrad adds.

      4. Open The Door At The Right Time.
      During loading and unloading, one critical step is opening the entrance door only when all traffic has come to a complete stop. When loading, the opening of the door signals to students that it’s safe to approach the bus. When unloading, it lets them know that it’s safe to leave their seat and move to exit the bus. Students should stay 12 feet away from the bus until the door opens during loading and stay seated until the door opens during unloading, she says.

      “Just imagine kids walking down the aisle or approaching the bus as it is getting rear-ended by a vehicle,” Konrad adds. “Horrific images go through my head thinking about that.”

      Additionally, when unloading, the driver should wait until they are certain that the stop arm is extended and flashing, and that all traffic is at a complete stop before opening the service door.

      5. Time The Flashing Light System Properly.
      When approaching a bus stop, activate the amber warning lights and tap the brake lights at 200 feet, Konrad says. Activate the right turn signal at 100 feet, stop no closer than 12 feet from the students and within 18 inches of and parallel to the curb, and set the parking brake. Shift into neutral and cancel the signal at the same time. Then, turn on the red light warning system. Check to ensure the stop arm is extended and flashing, and that all traffic has come to a complete stop.

      Additionally, when exiting the bus with the stop sign, look up from 10 feet away at the front of the bus and verify that the red lights are flashing.

      As soon as the last child passes them, the driver should turn their body 180 degrees to watch them walk toward the bus while the stop sign is facing traffic. Photo courtesy Mary Ward
      As soon as the last child passes them, the driver should turn their body 180 degrees to watch them walk toward the bus while the stop sign is facing traffic. Photo courtesy Mary Ward

      6. Keep An Eye Out For Accessory Hazards.
      Konrad reminds drivers to be aware of drawstrings, jackets, backpacks and backpack straps, scarves, belts, or any other loose items that could get caught in the door.

      7. Take Command When Escorting Students.
      Drivers must act with authority during the escort process. Right after leaving the stepwell, they have to “hold up that stop sign like the Statue of Liberty,” Konrad says. They should also not step off the bus before sticking out the hand-held stop sign, and check both directions alongside the bus for hazards.

      8. Position Is Critical.
      The driver must have a clear view of the crossing students and traffic at all times; that can only be done when standing sideways. The driver’s body should face the crossing students while the stop sign is facing traffic. The bus should be used as protection to check for vehicles that pass the flashing red lights before stepping into the middle of the road.

      “Never turn your back to traffic,” Konrad warns.

      As soon as the last student passes the driver, the driver should turn 180 degrees to watch students walk toward the bus. The stop sign should still face traffic. Drivers must also direct students to cross in front of them — never behind or toward the rear of the bus. When loading, drivers should tell students as they cross to enter the bus and find a seat. Hand motions should be avoided.

      When the last student crosses the middle of the road, the driver should turn to face the bus. When students reach the sidewalk, the driver must immediately walk toward them and continue to hold the stop sign so that it is visible to traffic in both directions.

      9. Look For Hazards.
      Peek under the bus before entering to make sure there are no potential hazards or children underneath.

      10. Check Mirrors.
      Drivers should be aware of blind spots, using all mirrors to the fullest extent possible, and lean forward in the driver’s seat, moving side to side to eliminate blind spots and ensure the street is clear of traffic, students, and hazards, Konrad says.

      11. Be Mindful Of The Danger Zone.
      While loading and unloading, do not move the bus if students are within 12 feet of it on any side. Additionally, back up only with assistance from a spotter when absolutely necessary. Instead, go around the block, if possible.

      12. Count Students Multiple Times.
      Drivers should get a student count as they see them approaching the stop, get on or off the bus, and leave the danger zone.

      13. Check, Check Again.
      After boarding the bus, the driver must check the right mirror zone before closing the entrance door. Next, they should perform a five-count mirror check to ensure there are no approaching students, all students are seated, no students or hazards are in front of the bus, traffic is still stopped, and check the right mirror zone again for approaching students.

      Then, the driver can put the transmission into gear, release the parking brake, and perform a second five-count mirror check. If clear, they can deactivate the red flashing lights and stop arm, check the left mirror zone, and activate the left turn signal when safe. Then, the driver can pull into traffic at idle speed while scanning all mirrors and deactivate the turn signal, their mission safely accomplished.