Region 8 School Bus Accident Prompts Question: How Safe is School Transportation?

September 27, 2007 - Posted at 6:06 p.m. CDT

PARAGOULD, AR -- A Greene County Tech bus driver hit a bridge early this morning, crashing her school bus and sending a dozen children to Region 8 hospitals for care. It happened on Highway 168 between Lorado and Fontaine around 7:30 a.m.

Authorities are still investigating exactly what happened, but the incident has reopened the debate of how safe is school transportation?

"The debate on seat belts on school buses goes back for decades. There are a few states now that require them," said Paragould Deputy Superintendent Richard Shelby.

Arkansas is not one of them and when children board a bus in Region 8, they won't be buckling up. Something Shelby says isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"I think in some situations, seat belts could be good if you have a roll over, that type of thing. on the other hand, you have high back seats that are well padded as far as contact forward or back, you're as's well documented that school bus travel is as safe as means of travel there is," said Shelby.

Teaching children bus safety starts young; at an age when kids are inquisitive and want to learn.

"We have a K-3 program that we work at each year that we introduce kids to all the safety gadgets, the escape hatches and all those kinds of things and we have drills every month about those evacuations," said Shelby.

Schools also have to be responsible for making sure the routes are as safe as possible.

"We go out and evaluate the stop," said Shelby, "We don't' go up and pick up kids down the hill where traffic someone could come over the top. You do all the things you can to make it as safe as you can."

Seven students involved in the bus accident Thursday morning have been released from hospital care and are home.