FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS 10) — It’s an alarming national trend felt at home.
This year there’s been a rise in the number of school-bus-related accidents.
The most recent one happened on Wednesday in Boones Mill when a sixth grader was hit by a car while waiting at a bus stop.
To get a first-hand look at what school bus drivers face each day on the road, WAVY sister station WSLS 10 rode along with an experienced Franklin County bus driver.
Caring for precious cargo, after 41 years of driving a school bus for Franklin County Mrs. Betty, as the kids call her, knows the name of each of her young riders.
Betty Wagner arrives at work at 6:40 a.m. every morning and promptly picks up and drops off children at the same time every day.
She drives children as young as 4 years old to those in the fifth grade.
Just like her own children, their safety is her priority.
“I love the kids, and we are like a big family,” Wagner said. “They tell me their problems and they need somebody to love them.”
She greets everyone one of them with a smile. She knows their name, their parents and notices when one student hasn’t been to school in a while.
But over the years, the challenges bus drivers like Wagner face on their bus routes are growing.
“Cars will try to pull around you or they might not stop for your lights. We always have to be cautious about opening that door and checking around us to see if everything is safe before they get on,” Wagner said.
Narrow roads and difficult weather conditions used to be the biggest worry. “You have to watch the traffic and make sure they are going to stop,” Wagner said.
Now distracted drivers in a hurry are one of the biggest concerns.
Donna Carter, Supervisor of Transportation for Franklin County Public Schools, said it’s a problem all of her bus drivers face.
“Just in the past five years, the passing of stopped school buses has increased. We deal with it daily, several times a week,” Carter said.
“It’s not just passing the stopped school bus, they pass the buses in route. Unsafe movement, reckless driving and impatience,” Carter noted as she ran down the list of some of the major issues drivers face.
According to a report by the AP, new national data shows school bus-related accidents send 17,000 U.S. children to emergency rooms each year, more tschool bus accidentshan double the number in previous estimates.
Locally in 2016, there have been nine school bus related accidents.
- Eight of those crashes involved other drivers who were charged in relation to the crash.
- Ten children total were hurt while riding
- Two children were hit while at their bus stop.
Those accidents happened all across the Roanoke region.
Hundreds of local school bus drivers like Wagner are urging drivers to think of the little one’s on board. One small distraction could put a child at risk.