New laws help keep Tenn. students safe on school buses

New laws help keep Tenn. students safe on school buses

The images horrified the country last November when six children were killed in a school bus crash in Chattanooga.

With safety in mind, the state’s laws for school buses are changing.

News 2 went to Robertson County, where the district is working hard to stay ahead of the curve.

“The hope is that we don’t have another Chattanooga,” said Robertson County’s Transportation Director, Joshua Hinerman.

Last year’s tragic crash got the attention of state lawmakers and various safety legislation was introduced this year.

One measure that passed means big changes for school bus drivers.

Joshua Hinerman (Photo: WKRN)

“It’s going to require annual in-service training for our drivers; we already do that,” explained Hinerman. “It’s going to require we maintain records of the bus inspections and how we maintain our vehicles, well we’re doing that already.”

What will change for Robertson County and the rest of Tennessee is the age minimum. Now people must be 25-years-old to drive a school bus instead of 21.

The bus driver in the deadly Chattanooga bus crash was 24.

News 2 asked Hinerman what he thought the difference between the ages 21 and 25 meant. He said maturity, which can be difficult to spot.

“Immaturity. I can’t determine that in an interview,“ he explained.

He said in the long run, changing the age minimum might impact the search for bus drivers.

“We are experiencing a shortage across the nation,” he said.

The new law also requires districts to create a hotline with a number posted on the back of each bus.

Photo: WKRN

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Once somebody calls about a reckless driver, Hinerman has 24 hours to get something in writing. He then has 48 hours to notify the director of schools and 60 days to complete an investigation.

“In that investigation process we have to look back and see are there any other complaints that have been made about this driver and their driving,” explained Hinerman. “If so we have to bring all that up and present that to the superintendent.”

Legislation requiring all school buses have seat belts went further than it ever has before.

In Robertson County, they know it’s coming one day, so they have new buses with seat belts, as well as integrated child seats.

In the meantime, it’s Hinerman’s job to assure parents that when their children step on a bus they are safe.

“When I have an individual come up to me at work or out in the public and they start asking questions about the yellow school bus or bringing up the tragic events in Chattanooga, I try to remind them of all the things we do well,” he said.

Click here for more School Safety Day: Protecting Our Kids stories. 

Courtesy of WKRN’s News 2

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