7News Investigates: Dangerous School Bus Driving

BOSTON (WHDH) - Speeding. Rolling through stop signs. Driving without their hands on the wheel.

More than 700 BPS buses criss-cross Boston every day. And 7News has uncovered data detailing dangerous driving habits among BPS bus drivers that could be putting kids at risk.

“It makes me concerned not only for my own children’s safety but for all those of my friends,” said Mercy Robinson, a BPS parent.

“They’re carrying very precious cargo, and that’s our students,” said Robert Berkstresser, a former director of transportation for a school district in California and a school bus expert with more than four decades of experience.

All Boston Public Schools buses have sensors that send alerts any time a driver does something out of the ordinary. 7News obtained all of the alerts sent over a three-month period last spring.

We found more than 3,600 alerts classified as “fundamental driving errors,” including 700 alerts for speeding, 1,400 for incomplete stops at stop signs, and 132 instances where the bus driver didn’t even try to stop at a stop sign or light.

There were also 18 alerts for driving the wrong way, and twelve for drivers who had both hands off of the wheel.

“Those are things that need to be corrected,” Berkstresser said.

7News also found that one BPS school bus generated twice as many alerts as any other during the three-month time period – 82 errors in all, including 21 in a single day. BPS would not identify that driver, but told 7News most of those alerts happened when no students were on board.

Still, school bus experts we spoke with were deeply troubled by the data we uncovered.

“At some point, it’s going to turn into a serious incident,” Berkstresser said.

The district said it does regularly monitor the alerts, and that some of them may actually have been triggered by drivers trying to avoid accidents. But it refused to answer our questions on camera, and provided this statement:

“The Boston Public Schools became one of the first school districts in the nation to adopt SmartDrive technology to help improve the safety and efficiency of our bus operation. By monitoring bus drivers’ performance and closely analyzing the data we receive, we are working to help identify and reduce unsafe driving habits and ensure that drivers adhere to best practices and demonstrate safe operation.”

BPS also said that when it sees drivers making large numbers of errors, it typically pulls them off the road and makes them go through additional training.

Parents told 7News that they expect the district to do more to keep their kids safe.

“It’s sad because you think that once they’re on the bus and they’re on the way to school, that’s when they’re safest,” Robinson said.

BPS does employ 11 “road safety supervisors” who use the alerts to help coach drivers.

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