JCPS officials react after camera catches buses breaking traffic laws


by Claudia Coffey / WHAS I-team

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 4 at 11:51 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It's video that would scare any parent; Jefferson County Public School bus drivers running red lights and disobeying traffic laws while the WHAS11 cameras were rolling.

Our I-team investigation comes after a series of high profile accidents involving JCPS buses.
They may be the most precious cargo on the road.  Little ones, backpacked and bright-eyed, stand ready at the bus stop with their anxious parents.

And parents trust the men and women with driving their children to and from school everyday.
A JCPS school bus blows through a red light. Not yellow, but clearly red. Over two days WHAS11 crews watched and recorded seven buses in the morning and afternoon at various places across Louisville run red lights, yellow lights and disobeying traffic laws.

At Ferndale Road in Fern creek our crews witnessed a JCPS bus, full of kids, drives through a red light. Then on Newburg Road, two buses, turn right on red. Even though the bumper sticker on the back of bus says turning right on red is prohibited.

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We also watched a bus without kids run a yellow light at Cane Run Road and just minutes later we watched as another bus drove through a red light. For parents it's shocking.
"Always accidents. A lot of accidents," said Robert Theus, a JCPS parent.

"My concern is my children's well being. Knowing what's going on. Is it that they are not paying attention [or] are they not getting trained well enough," said Erica Glass, another concerned parent.
"I think it's crazy that they keep getting in accidents," says parent Casey Scott.

On January 7, 2013, school bus #0424 with 15 students on board from Chenoweth Elementary got into an accident with another driver at Drescher Bridge and Brownsboro Road.  Three students were taken to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville and released. The driver of the other car remains hospitalized in fair condition.  A preliminary report by the Louisville Metro Police Department reveals that inattention by the bus driver was a factor in the crash and the bus driver failed to yield while turning left. JCPS officials placed the driver on non-driving duties pending the outcome of the investigation.

"We follow the laws and following the laws is important and safety is important. So it concerns me anytime anyone is not following the law." says Dr. Donna Hargens, the Superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools.

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Just four days after this accident, WHAS11 crews saw buses breaking traffic laws. We immediately informed the school district and took our video to Dr. Hargens who along with Dr Michael Raisor, Chief Operating Officer, watched each incident. Dr. Hargens said she found it very concerning, but not an accurate representation of all drivers.

"We have excellent bus drivers and we have training and anytime there is any issue that is brought to our attention, we deal with it," said Dr. Hargens after watching the video.

Dr Raisor says the school bus numbers provided to him are drivers who have clean records, but every alleged incident is taking seriously.

"We take every complaint, every issue extremely seriously. We look into them all and this is concerning," said Dr. Raisor.
JCPS officials said the number of accidents is decreasing and add that most of the accidents are caused by other drivers

During the 2010-2011 school year, there were 250 accidents. In the 2011-2012 school year there were 231 reported accident and so far this year there have been 90. Of the 90 school bus accidents so far this school year, the bus driver was at fault in 35 of them. 

"Every incident is important. Every violation is important and we deal with it with a great sense of responsibility to deal with it. So we never take it lightly," Dr. Hargens said.

In an open records request, WHAS11 found one complaint in 2012 and seven in 2011. In one report,  a driver was accused of running two stop signs, missed stops, while children chased the bus, then failed to stop when crossing railroad tracks. 

Then, in another complaint filed in late 2010, a driver was seen running a red light with a phone in one hand and food in the other.  Both drivers were sent to training and observation and were then back behind the wheel of a bus.

While WHAS11 crews saw buses breaking the law, we also witnessed many drivers observing the law. We followed several down winding roads, driving the speed limit, stopping at stop signs and lights.

"When you have those children on the bus you need to be a little more cautious. Slow down, no speeding. Things do happen. But with bus drivers you don't send your kids off to school thinking things are gonna happen, my kid will be in an accident today," said Erica Glass.

WHAS11 reported the bus numbers to JCPS and they are working with the drivers on a case-by-case basis.  They will observe them following an evaluation and take necessary action.
JCPS  said they are investing money in GPS systems for buses so they can track these drivers, how fast they go, where they go.