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Visalia School Bus Accident Injures Three Students, Two Drivers

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Three students and two drivers were injured in a Visalia school bus accident the morning of May 12, 2009 after two school buses collided. The school bus accident occurred at the intersection of Camp Drive and Road 69. The smaller bus was carrying special education students and was going north on Camp Drive approaching Road 69. The second bus, a full-sized school bus, was going west on Road 69 and had stopped at a stop sign. The driver of the larger bus did not see the smaller bus and pulled into the intersection as it approached, California Highway Patrol officials said. The bus collided at their right front corners and came to a stop.

Three out of six students in the smaller bus suffered personal injuries and were taken to an area hospital. They were treated and released. The two drivers — Melville Tully Jr. 66 and Dennis Curtsinger, 58 — also suffered minor injuries. They have been placed on administrative leave until CHP completes its investigation and the school district finishes its internal evaluation. Officials do not believe alcohol or drugs were involved in this school bus crash.

I’m glad that none of the children or the drivers suffered any serious personal injuries in this school bus crash. What a relief for their parents! It could have been a lot worse. I wish all the injured victims the very best for a quick and complete recovery.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 1996 and 2006, 96 crashes occurred in which at least one occupant of a school bus died. More than 50 percent of those crashes involved another vehicle. In the 41 single-vehicle crashes, 48 occupants, 14 drivers and 32 passengers died. In the 53 percent of all crashes involving fatalities to occupants of school bus, the principal point of impact was the front of the vehicle.

The debate about seatbelts in school buses has been going on for a while now. I absolutely believe that safety restraints are a must in school buses for the safety of our children. It’s about time federal officials updated their studies and required seatbelts on all school buses — large or small.

According to bus manufacturers, adding seatbelts and the attendant structural reinforcement at the time of manufacture adds between $1,500 and $1,200 to the cost of a new 66- to 78-passenger school bus. Maintaining, repairing and replacing damaged belts can add $100 to $500 per bus in annual maintenance costs. Are these costs worth the lives and well-being of our children? The answer has to be a resounding “yes.”

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