Drivers are crashing into the back of stationery school buses in St. Johns County

St. Johns County — Distracted drivers are crashing into the back of stationery school buses in St. Johns County at an alarming rate. Recent statistics show that there were two back-end crashes in 2019, three in 2020, seven in 2021 and four this year, two within two school days of each other.

Al Pantano, the Director for the St. Johns County School District’s Transportation Department says that as the county’s growth exceeds the capacity of its infrastructure, distracted drivers are simply not paying attention. Despite the bus’s size and color, along with the bells and whistles used to warn the public that the vehicle is stopped, crashes occur nonetheless. Pantano blames tailgating, excessive speed, and to no one’s surprise, the use of cell phones.

“Put the phones down,” he said. “Have consideration for other motorists as you operate your own vehicle. Ease off and give people room. The road’s are already congested.”

Pantano described school buses as special as they carry the country’s most precious resource, our children.

“The public expects bus drivers to demonstrate law abiding behavior,” he said. “They’re quick to tell us if they don’t see things as they should be; as they should. But as crazy as this sounds, I’ve seen parents put their child on a school bus and then try to beat that very same bus down the road.”

Pantano explained that the buses are designed to withstand the impact of a car.

“Anything below the children’s feet is a crumple zone,” he said. “Larger vehicles cause me to loose sleep. They tend to hit the upper structure - the body of the bus - an area that can seriously hurt children.”

Pantano expressed his frustration when describing most of the accident scenes as buses that are physically stopped with their break lights on and their student lights activated.

“Once activated the bus becomes a mobile traffic light with a right to legally stop traffic to its front and rear as they prepare to load or unload children.” he continued. “I truly believe that if everyone paid attention to driving their vehicle, everyone would just be safe. If you hit a bus from behind you will go up under the bus, into the frame rails and into the fuel cage. That will crush the car. During one incident, one individual came close to getting decapitated going under that bus.”

While stressing that the buses are the safest way to transport children, “anywhere, period,” Pantano admits that the department is working to find ways to make the buses even safer.

Lucia Viti

Lucia Viti

Lucia Viti is a seasoned journalist, photojournalist, and published author and works as a reporter for WOKV News. Lucia is a graduate of the University of West Virginia with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism.

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