Two school buses collided in Gwinnett County, Georgia, Monday morning, injuring several students who were on their way to take the Georgia State Criterion-Referenced Competency Test and sparking a local debate on the need for safety belts on school buses and better driver safety.
Authorities said that the crash occurred about 8:45 a.m. at an intersection in Norcross, Georgia, a city of about 11,000 people in the Metropolitan Atlanta area. A bus from Lilburn Middle School carrying 38 students drove into the back of a special needs bus carrying two children to Camp Creek Elementary School at the intersection. The Camp Creek bus was stopped while a third bus in front of it, which was not struck, loaded children.
Ten students from the Lilburn bus complained of neck and back pain and other injuries and were treated on the scene before being transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. Gwinnett Schools Public Schools officials grounded the drivers of both buses as a matter of district transportation protocol until investigators determined they were fit to drive.
Another bus picked up the uninjured students from the scene so they could make it to the standardized testing on time. The injured students will be permitted to take the test at a later date, a Gwinnett County School official told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Investigators announced that the driver of the Lilburn Middle School bus, whose name was not released, was found to be at fault in the collision because he or she was following the Camp Creek Elementary bus too closely.
The crash re-ignited a debate about the need for safety belts in school buses that started last October after a child in neighboring Douglas County was killed while riding the bus. The National Coalition for School Bus Safety, one of the nation’s strongest advocates for seatbelts on school buses, says that the basic design of the school bus has not changed since 1977.
The incident also drew attention to the qualifications of bus drivers themselves. School bus drivers typically must receive more testing in safety regulations, laws, and behind-the-wheel training than any other professional drivers. Considering these strict standards, why would the Lilburn bus driver dangerously tail another school bus on a busy school morning?
Each year, nearly half a million school buses transport more than 23.5 million children to school. Those 450,000-plus school buses travel about 4.3 billion miles annually. Forty people die each year in school-bus related accidents.