School bus safety examined in Pennsylvania after Tennessee crash

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At least five children died and dozens were injured in a bus crash in Chatanooga, Tennessee. Few things are as scary for a mother to hear.

“It’s devastating to see and to hear,” said Trisha Cottingham, who has a kindergartner at Sporting Hill Elementary School in Cumberland County. “My son gets on the bus daily to go to school, and so we’re trusting the bus drivers and the school district that their lives are in their hands.”

The Cumberland Valley School District manages more than 150 bus routes and drivers each day.

“We review every individual record of every driver that comes to us,” said Terry Draper, the district’s transportation director. “We check their background, so we make sure it’s the best possible people driving our students. They are our #1 priority.”

In reality, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says very few people die in school bus crashes each year; 11 on average. Still, the NHTSA is pushing laws to require seat belts on school buses, which Pennsylvania doesn’t have.

PennDOT says it is costly and bus drivers say there are cons to strapping kids in.

“If there is a rollover, in many cases those kids will be tied up in seat belts, or if there happens to be a fire on the bus,” John Allison at Rohrer Bus Company said.

PennDOT added that on buses, kids are like eggs in a crate; cushioned and protected by high, padded seating.

“It’s really scary to think about when your kids leave the house to go to school for the day,” Cottingham said. “You want them to be taken the best care as possible.”

The Cumberland Valley School District tells us they retest bus drivers each year to make sure they’re still fit to take kids to and from school. Plus, they have bus safety classes for the kids.

PennDOT adds that buses go through inspections two times a year.

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