Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tragic Accident in Florida

I have been following the reports and opinions on the tragic accident in Lake Butler, FL yesterday.

You can find a detailed article that seems to be up to date here. Seven members of one family, siblings, a foster child and two cousins, ages 20 months to 15 years died a horrifying death. This tragedy was followed by the death of the children’s grandfather due to a heart attack.

The basic facts are:

  1. The school bus was stopped at an approved stop on its route, on a straight stretch of road on a clear day. The speed limit on the road is 60 mph.
  2. A car driven by the 15 year victim was properly stopped behind the bus. She had a permit but not a license, no adult was in the car.
  3. The car was struck from behind and pushed into the bus by a tractor-trailer hauling a load of bottled water. The car and the truck were engulfed in flames. The bus ended up 200' down the road and facing 180 degrees from where it was stopped at the time of the accident.
  4. The driver of the truck NEVER BRAKED!
  5. All seven children in the car were killed. The bus driver and at least 8 of the 9 students on the bus were injured; some of their injuries were severe but are not considered life threatening. The driver of the truck was injured but it is unclear how severely.

Many of the news stories and several blogs seem to be trying to blame the girl driving the car or her parents for letting her. Some seem to think that if there had been an adult in the car that all seven kids would be alive today. One blog was calling for safer school bus safety standards. I fail to follow their reasoning. What would have been different if there had been an adult in the car? As far as I can see we'd have one more senseless death. One blog went on and on that if an adult had been driving their time might have been different. We could play the what if game for pages. The fact that everyone should be putting in bold print and focusing on is THE TRUCK DRIVER NEVER BRAKED!!!! Why blame the innocent? Do you think the mother of these children is not blaming herself?

Let's place the blame where it belongs!!! More information is needed as to why the truck driver never braked. Some reports state that he may have been using his cell phone. Some have speculated that he may have been over tired from long hours on the road. Maybe he had a medical condition that caused the accident. Until the investigation is completed we won't know.

Several blogs have had the comment "how could he not see a big yellow bus?!" As a driver of a big yellow bus I know first hand that people often do not see us. They are distracted or in a hurry.

An accident like this is my worst nightmare. Even assuming that the bus driver had been scanning her mirrors as she should have and saw the truck coming up behind her, I don't know what she could have done from a dead stop if he was traveling at 60 mph. If the car had not been between the bus and the car the damage to the bus and injuries might have been more severe but it is amazing to see the condition of the bus after being hit like it was. There is always room for improvement in school bus design but you have to admit that a bus is safer than a car.

I will be more diligent in making sure that no one sits in my back seats when we are not full and it is therefore not necessary. I'm sure my older students will not like this but I will be using this tragedy as a teaching tool.

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