New Ohio School Bus Safety Task Force Holds First Meeting

A new state task force in Ohio focused on thoroughly evaluating the safety of the state’s school buses held its first meeting on Monday at the Ohio Department of Public Safety headquarters.

As previously reported by The Ohio Star Ohio Governor Mike DeWine formed the Ohio School Bus Safety Working Group last month following a Northwestern Local School District bus crash that killed one student and injured more than two dozen in Clark County.

DeWine attended the meeting Monday, saying that the safety of the state’s children is of utmost importance.

“We have an obligation, I think, to be able to say to the public we are doing everything we can to make these school buses as safe as possible,” DeWine said.

The 15-member task force is to examine topics such as school bus regulations, school bus design, maintenance and inspections, driver licensing, certification, and training, school bus safety technology, crash risk factors, lessons learned from other school bus crashes, alternative transportation and associated risks, school bus seat belts, safety of special populations, and critical incident protocol.

The task force includes members of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Insurance Institute, the Ohio Department of Insurance, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Ohio School Bus Mechanics Association, parents, and school bus drivers.

During Monday’s meeting, the panel was taken through the thorough school bus inspection process used by the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). OHSP inspects the state’s 19,000 buses twice a year and holds them to the same standards as their original manufacturer.

According to Andy Wilson, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety and chair of the newly formed group, the group needs to ensure that Ohio’s school buses are as safe as possible.

“Our school buses are really the safest mode of transportation that we have to use here in Ohio to get our kids to and from school and to the school functions. I know our buses are safe, but we have got to take a look at is there anything we can do to make sure that they’re safer,” Wilson said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are among the safest vehicles on the road, with less than 1 percent of all traffic fatalities involving children riding on school buses.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that from 2012 to 2021, 113 people nationwide were killed while riding in school buses. Fifty-two of those killed were motorists, while 61 were passengers. Seventy percent of those killed in accidents involving school buses were occupants of other cars also involved in the collisions.

Only nine states require seat belts on school buses, and Ohio is not one of them. Several safety organizations, including the National Transportation Safety Board, and parent organizations, including the Ohio and National PTA boards, advise the use of seat belts on school buses.

According to DeWine, although statistics show school buses are among the safest road vehicles, that doesn’t change the outcome of last month’s tragic bus accident.

“We know, statistically, that school buses are a lot safer than putting your child in a car. That is just statistically true. But that is not any kind of solace or consolation to the families from Clark County who had children on that bus. Who lost a child, who had a child injured,” DeWine said.

The working group will hold five meetings, during which time it will hear from manufacturers, parents, and safety experts before recommending a course of action. These suggestions should be available by the end of 2023.

DeWine said, “Whatever the specific recommendations are, we have to take those seriously and, as far as I’m concerned, try to implement them.”

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star, The Star News Network, and The Tennessee Star. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]







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