KNOXVILLE (WATE) – From Knoxville to Chattanooga deadly bus accidents have highlighted the need for safety on buses.
Lawmakers have looked at legislation to put seat belts on school buses, school systems have also made efforts to recruit more qualified bus drivers, but one of the best things parents can do to get involved is learn more about their bus driver. School districts are public but some, like Knox County, are contracted drivers.
Following a deadly school Knox County bus crash in 2014 that killed a teacher’s aide and two students and a study that said Knox County school bus drivers were underpaid and not well trained, Knox County Schools took a renewed focus on bus safety. They created a new position to help address continuing problems ranging from overcrowded buses, minor crashes, to issues with bus drivers or contractors.
Kim Severance was brought on as the new Knox County Schools Customer Service Manager for Transportation. She says drivers go through a criminal background check, drug test and a review of their driving history. She says most of the information is available to parents.
Severance says parents just need to call her office at (865) 594-1550 and give their child’s bus number. Then she will send an email with information on their child’s bus driver, which includes the number of years they have driven in Knox County, their driving record and any complaints on the bus driver. The only information that is not available to parents is a criminal background check.
Cameras on school buses are another way Knox County Schools are monitoring its drivers. The school systems says a majority of buses now have them, but that footage is only available to parents through a court order. Meanwhile, the state legislature is looking at bus safety. Bills have been filed that would require more driver training and oversight and lawmakers are also expected to take another look at whether to require seat belts on school buses.