Special Report: Buses, Busted
Wherever a school bus stops to pick up students, parents share the same thought. One father says, "safety." A mother has the same response, "safety."
But parents might not feel as safe as they'd like--if they had been with us when we followed school buses along their routes in several Bay State cities and towns.
How couldn't they be concerned? When we watched a bus go through a stop sign in Hingham. We watched another bus go through a stop sign in Lynn. And, in Marlborough, a bus going faster than it should, when we measured it against our speedometer.
But the most dangerous school bus driving we saw was at railroad crossings, where state laws were stretched and broken.
This bus is doing what state law says all school buses must: the driver comes to a full stop, opens and closes the door, and then proceeds.
Now a school bus in Canton crosses train tracks without opening the door. Another in Waltham. And if you think the drivers can see all they need through the windows, federal investigators say ten children died in school bus crashes because drivers couldn't hear trains approaching. Had they opened the doors, they would have.
On one morning in Beverly, we saw buses go over railroad tracks without even stopping -- much less opening the doors -- three times!
Superintendent of Beverly Schools, Dr. James Hayes told 7 News, "That's a real concern to us," after watching our video with his transportation director. It reminded them both of a fatal train accident there last year that killed a 14-year old boy.
Hayes said, "We've had too many tragedies in Beverly to want to see a school bus tragedy at a railroad crossing."
7ís Andy Hiller asked Hayes, "Do you think student safety is jeopardized?"
Hayes responded, "I feel that. I feel that especially at a railroad crossing."
Our investigation also found state law doesn't give all students the same protection when they cross into danger. School vans carrying less than eight people don't have to stop or look, so they can drive right over the tracks -- and they do.
Representative David Linsky said, "One would certainly think that all laws for school buses would be the same."
That's what he thought, until he reviewed the law with us. "I am so glad that you brought this to my attention because it's something that we are going to look into right now. And if we need to change the law, we'll change that law," Linsky said.
We followed many buses that didn't break the law, but we didn't have much trouble finding drivers who weren't being safe. And your child could be on one of their buses.
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